While hiking in the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, living in the brave new COVID-19 World, I stumbled across the Lost Chestnut trail. Turned down another bend, found a loop meandering amongst the tree line, and avoided falling off the cliffside. Few activities in life score higher than a substantial hike. Quoting Nietzsche, “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.”
After another turn, I found this sign, with a tree sprouting from the roots:
If you’ve read Richard Power’s Pulitzer winner, Overstory, the book is a collection of intertwining stories. One centers on the death of the American Chestnut tree. I won’t spoil the tale, this is my favorite part of the book. But these lions of the tree world stood tall for 40 million years and helped build America. Houses. Towns. Fence lines. Railroad ties. Baseball bats, the kind etched with a bolt of lightning. Then, a blight, known as the Cryphonectria Parasitica native to Eastern Asia, came from China. During the 20th century, the pathogen was accidentally introduced into North America and Europe through infected chestnut plants. Within 40 years, all died out. None exist. Well, sort of, the trees root systems live and thrive below the soil, and the saplings often grow to ten feet before the blight takes hold.
On this particular journey, I believe this tree will come back to us soaring toward the heavens, ruling the earth one day soon. Down but not out, why doubt a foolish American dream? Fables, Myths, and Legends make us who we are.