“Nothing is holier; nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous inscribed disk of its trunk; in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy, knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.” Hermann Hesse
When I reflect on the path of the Elder Warrior, the metaphor of rings in a tree comes to mind. A tree goes through various kinds of growth. Each year, a tree adds new layers of wood to its trunk. If you count the rings of a tree, it will tell you how long the tree has been living. The shape and the width of the rings can differ from year to year. Wide rings indicate a time of intense growth. A tree that is happy getting lots of sunshine and rain will show rings that are broad and evenly spaced. Narrow rings indicate less favorable conditions for growth, unusually cold weather, insect damage, lack of nutrients, drought.
The narrow rings produce much stronger wood than the broader rings and are essential to a tree’s overall strength. When a tree puts down a narrow ring, because it was a year of drought, it also deepens its roots. By reading the rings of a tree, you can see the scars from a forest fire, hurricane, and other severe weather conditions. When a tree is injured, it weeps and bleeds sap to begin the healing process. In the years that follow, the tree focuses on growth in the wounded area to repair the damages. An old tree will have hidden scars under the layers. Anyone who splits wood will tell you it is these wounded areas of the tree that are the strongest and most difficult to split and will burn better than the unscarred areas.