The Olive Tree of Vouves, on the island of Crete, is estimated to be 3,000 years old; it still bears fruit. Archaeologist Ticia Verveer noted:  It stood here when Rome burned in AD64, and Pompeii was buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in AD79. It witnessed thousands of other events personal, political and cosmic.  An estimated 20,000 people visit the tree each year, drawn by its astonishing longevity, seeking the feeling of awe and connection it inspires.

We have that feeling in the presence of much younger trees we pass in our neighborhood ramblings, like this beauty in the park across the way.

Sally Schneider

Just as we were mulling these two trees, we found this quote on the frontispiece of The Overstory by Richard Powers:

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

…They nod to me, and I to them.


Yes, that it is definitely what they do. And also this:

I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

—W.S. Merwin

they have carried me in their branches

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3 replies on “Talking and Listening to a 3,000 Year Old Olive Tree

  1. Lovely. It puts words to how I feel when I am outside – even in my own backyard. We have several trees that protect us (and we them) including what we have been told is the largest hickory nut tree in our town, an elderly and very tall hemlock that a wonderful arborist has been able to save from woolly adelgid, and right outside our bedroom window, a beautiful magnolia. When it is in bloom, we are looking directly into a mass of pink blossoms that obscure everything else.

    None of these trees were planted by us. We inherited them from previous owners who did, along with all the trees that planted themselves. If you look for our house on Google Earth, you can’t see it – the only thing you see are the trees. I often bemoan the amount of shade that is preventing me from having more sunlight – a flower bed and a vegetable garden… and when I do, people ask why we don’t cut some of the “nuisance” trees down – but we don’t.

    We have a picture of the hemlock when it was first planted 90 something years ago. It’s like looking at a picture of our grandson when he was a toddler and now being hugged by this tall person whose face I have to stand on tiptoes to kiss.

  2. When I move from here to there upon this earth, it is the trees I have planted that I miss, not the people I have left behind in my traipse.

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