Jimmy, of course, gets top billing, but I rarely pass up a movie starring Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman. Clint Eastwood and my father seem cut from the same cloth; both embraced gritty roles in their lifetimes but underneath that tough façade is a marshmallow all soft and sweet. I watched Gran Torino with my father just so he’d know that I know what he’s really all about.
I couldn’t pass up this old Sessile Oak either. I was dwarfed by the size of that gentle giant, arms lifted to the sky as he gave thanks for yet another beautiful day. It was a place of comfort, wrapped in the wisdom of the ages.
Years ago I would have relished the idea of wrestling with those strong limbs until I defied gravity and touched the sky. How many children had he encouraged over the years? How many generations had he sheltered? How had he managed to escape the axe, much less survive climate change and disease and even lightening strikes as so many around him were felled?
Killarney National Park, all 25,000 acres of mountain, garden, park, woodland, waterway and moorland is one of the few places in Ireland that has been continually covered in woodland since following the most recent glacial period. At the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago, Ireland was covered in tundra, then grasslands, before she was cloaked in forests. Woodland dominated by oak and elm reached their peak about 7,000 BC, when they were teeming with animal, bird and plant life. Man followed, and with his presence, the destruction of a good portion of the woodland.
Human presence in the Killarney area dates back at least to the early Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago, when copper was first mined in the area. Some of the most impressive archaeological remains from early Christian times have been found in the Killarney region, among those the “Annals of Innisfallen.” This chronicle contains more than 2,500 entries detailing the history of Ireland between AD 433 and AD 1450 as understood by monks living in the Innisfallen island monastery between the 12th and 15th centuries. The annals are now housed in Oxford’s Bodleian Library despite a 2001 request they be returned to the citizens of the Republic of Ireland.
This King of Trees, a symbol of strength, endurance and fertility, seemed a proud reminder of the eternal story of one civilization, one generation after the next putting down roots to gain a stronghold.
Did you know an oak can produce 50,000 acorns a year? All it really takes is one of those acorns and a couple hundred years; maybe a thousand, to understand how truly beautiful the collective spirit of a country.