Friday, March 13, 2009

Witness Trees

One of the best known Witness Trees on the Gettysburg Battlefield is the Swamp White Oak near the Trostle Farm. Major-General Daniel Sickles established his headquarters here on July 2, 1863. The tree still appears to be in good shape despite being in the area of one of the most intense actions of the battle.

My objective in starting this blog was to provide random snapshots of family life in Upper Adams. I always try to post information with the hopes it will reach someone who lives in another part of the country, (or in the world, for that matter,) or even someone who lives around here and inspire them to discover this wonderful area and all it has to offer. Full of history, art and natural resources, the sky is the limit when it comes to activities and fun things to do that won't cost an arm and a leg.

In my every day encounters, it often occurs to me what must have gone on long before me in the very places I pass through. I wanted to share a poem I came across recently that seemed fitting:

"What I Know for Sure," by Bob Hicok

Some people, told of witness trees,
pause in chopping a carrot
or loosening a lug nut and ask,
witness to what? So while salad
is made, or getting from A to B
is repaired, these people
listen to the story
of the Burnside Bridge sycamore,
alive at Antietam, bloodiest day
of the war, or the Appomattox Court House
honey locust, just coming to leaf
as Lee surrendered, and say, at the end,
"Cool". Then the chopping
continues with its two sounds,
the slight snap to the separation
of carrot from carrot, the harder crack
of knife against cutting board,
or the sigh, also slight, of a lug nut
as it's tightened against a wheel. In time,
these people put their hands
under water and say, not so much to you
but to the window in front of the sink,
"Think of all the things
trees have seen." Then it's time
for dinner, or to leave, and a month passes,
or a year,....when some people
say, "I feel like one of those trees,
you know?" And you do know.
You make a good salad, change
a wicked tire, you're one of those people,
watching, listening, a witness
to whatever this is,
for as long as it is
amazing, isn't it, that I could call you
right now and say, .... I still
can't say everything I want to
but am closer, for trying, to God,
if you must, to spirit, if you will,
to what's never easy for people
like us: life, breath, the sheer volume
of wonder.
Bob Hicok is the author of This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh)

In your travels in and around Gettysburg, in addition to the well known memorials and sites, I hope you will also take a moment to visit one of these gentle giants. They have seen so much in their lifetimes, not much unlike each of us. There is so much to see and learn around here that is right in front of us if we just take the time.

"On that memorable November 1863 day when President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery (now Gettysburg National Cemetery), a young honey locust tree stood about 150 feet from the speakers platform. Being rooted on Cemetery Hill on the right side of the Union line, this tree, the "Gettysburg Address Honey Locust," was a silent witness to the Battle of Gettysburg that had raged there during three momentous days in July."

You and I: we're alot like those witness trees, aren't we? Aaah, the things we've seen.......

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