Inside the book: Tales of writing ‘All the Garden’s a Stage’: the Bristlecone Pine
When looking through a garden book, you may not be aware that some of the photos you’re viewing may have a story behind them. In my book “All the Garden’s a Stage” there is a photo of a bristlecone pine that is one such photo.
On a road trip with a friend who I shall call Sue I found myself stranded on a mountain. We had gone off in search of a stand of some of the oldest trees on the planet, the bristlecone pines. We were planning to take photographs of my limited edition art designed onto Eco-friendly, fashion tee shirts and scarves. We thought the bristlecone pines would make a romantic backdrop for photos. Unfortunately, we found our way into the backdoor to the bristlecone forest – a dirt road that became impassable from a recent downpour – and had to stop half-way up the winding mud and stone trail.
Frustrated that we couldn’t reach our destination we pulled the truck over and decided to at least enjoy the surroundings. Sue went off to take some photos and I wandered around the loose shale to see if I could find some interesting native plants.
As I reached the base of a steep craggy slope I spied what looked like a lone bristlecone pine high up on a ridge. The climb didn’t look all that bad despite the rocky, loose-littered shale that coated the hillside. So, well equipped with a plastic bag of tee shirts and a small camera — instead of a climbing rope and a bottle of water — I began my crawl up the mountainside. As I approached my goal of the bristlecone pine, I looked back and saw the literally ‘slippery slope’ I’d climbed and realized I wouldn’t be able to get down it again. A wave of worry rolled off of me as I suddenly felt weak and short of breath. It didn’t dawned on me that I was in the thin air of an altitude of 11,000 feet an there was nothing at all wrong with me.
I felt shaky and tired and saw no easy way down as the sun sank low over the horizon. I crept up close enough to snap photos of my precious bristlecone pine tree, then slowly explored around the side of the steep incline until I found some less intimidating surfaces below. It wasn’t easy but I carefully picked my way down the decent. I was thirsty and tired and kept myself going, all the while trying to figure how I could tell Sue where I’d been. How do you justify being so incredibly stupid as to wander off alone in the middle of nowhere totally unprepared for anything?
Winded and relieved, I finally reached the bottom and started searching for Sue, going over and over every excuse I could think of for my behavior. Surely she would think I was a complete dolt.
But I couldn’t find Sue anywhere. It was now getting even later and the light was beginning to fail when I heard my name being called far in the distance. I looked all around. And then I saw her. Sue was far above me, standing in the exact spot where I’d been stranded. “Jane!” she called, “Jane! How do I get down from here?”
It was then that I realized Sue and I were soul sisters. We had more in common than loving nature, gardening, art and friendship.
You can find my coveted photo of the young bristlecone pine (probably well under 1000 years old) entitled ‘the king of the mountain’ in the Mountaineer chapter of “All the Garden’s a Stage”. The video I took with the little flip camera (in lieu of something useful like a climbing gloves or flashlight) can be found on my page on YouTube (linked here).
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