The French Sycamore Tree

August 12, 2022

At a dinner in San Sebastian, at a very famous restaurant with a very famous wine cellar, I saw this tree. Two trees, actually, but the first one captured my attention, its trunk bound up in burlap, a huge metal clasp around its base, and wires and belts holding its branches in suspension. I wanted to know its story.

damaged French Sycamore tree
Damaged French Sycamore Tree at Rekondo

Following dinner, after all but two other guests had left, we were invited to tour the wine cellar. We were excited about the restaurant, but the cellar itself and the hospitality and generosity of our hosts caught us by surprise. After an incredible tour and an hour of conversation and storytelling, it was time to leave. I paused on the patio and asked our host about the tree. He shared this story with me.

two French sycamore trees
Two French Sycamore Trees

Some years ago, ten or more, there was a great storm, and lightning struck the base of the tree and split it in half. As they went to clean up the mess from the storm, they thought they would surely have to remove the tree. Now, the tree on the right was healthy, undamaged by the storm. And then they noticed that these two trees, French sycamores, had grown together over time. They were symbiotic, and their branches had grown together, merging into one. The healthy tree was now sustaining the branches of the wounded tree, its own root system intact and strong. And over the years, as the base of the wounded tree has rotted away, the healthy tree and its branches have continued to grow broader and wider, healthier than ever.

This reminds me of a Mayan art piece known as a Circle of Friends. Arms across each others’ shoulders, you can hardly tell where one friend begins and the other ends. They are strong and joyful together, their strength and love flowing in an unbroken, continuous circle, bringing life and strength to all.

Circle of Friends Mayan Sculpture
Circle of Friends Mayan Sculpture

Sometimes we repair with gold, sometimes with twine or rope, sometimes even with staples. And sometimes we repair by binding up the broken and reaching our arms across, sending our own great love, our life force, into the limbs of the weak and wounded. We share our strength, and together we stand and grow stronger, widening our reach, stretching our branches and bearing fruit for generations to come.

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