As I was scanning the headlines this morning, I, like many people, was saddened to learn that the Pioneer Cabin Tree had been destroyed by the recent storms in California.
I’ve never been to California, and I don’t have any personal connection to the tree. But the loss of something so enduring, so iconic, and so beloved is always sad, and even though the forest is still there – still majestic, still peaceful, still beautiful – it will never be (or even feel) quite the same again, at least not to those who knew it when the tree was there.
Reading about its loss this morning reminded me of the Gendarme, a relatively small but distinctive pinnacle, at Seneca Rocks, in Pendleton County, West Virginia, which crumbled and fell on October 22, 1987 (my eighth birthday). When I was growing up, my mother, father, sister, and I visited Seneca Rocks several times, and I was always drawn to the Gendarme, even though it was only a very small part of a much larger formation. As a child, I thought that it would always be there, and then one day it was gone. I’ve been back several times since the Gendarme fell, and even though the peak is still there – still majestic, still peaceful, still beautiful – it will never be (or even feel) quite the same again, at least not to us who knew it when the Gendarme was there.
Even though a western sequoia that stood for hundreds of years and an eastern quartzite pinnacle that stood for millions may not seem to have a lot in common, both of them can help us remember the beauty of remembrance. Perhaps even more importantly, both of them can help us remember the importance of letting ourselves take time (and even make time) to appreciate the things (and the people) we sometimes take for granted (whatever and whoever they happen to be) – or maybe sometimes even let ourselves believe will always be there for us to appreciate (or spend time with) tomorrow … or next week … or next month … or next year – unless they fall, too, before we take the time to enjoy them.