That special tree that is always there for you

I love trees, and quite a few of them are special to me. There is, for instance, an American Northern Oak that I planted when I was about seven. I remember saying to my father that I wanted to build a tree hut in it. He looked at the one-inch ‘tree,’ and then tried to lower my ambitions, explaining that I would grow faster than the tree. Other people do now live in our house, but the tree is still there in the front yard. The leaves have a beautiful warm red color in autumn. 

This tree on the left is another one, but also particular. For many years it has been a landmark for me, signaling that I have reached the last dunes before the North Sea beach, on the Dutch island of Schouwen-Duiveland. I photographed it on this date, two years ago, to use in a speech on soil, where I would mention the role of roots to stop erosion. You find this one in the largest forested area of the province of Zeeland. 

It is difficult to imagine that there was no such forest here just one hundred years ago. This area was a drifting plane where the salty winds and hungry rabbits prevented plants and trees from developing. In the 1920s and 1930s, the government had pines from Corsica and Austria planted here. It then provided work in those crisis years, while we are lucky to enjoy a beautiful forest a century later. It is part of several quite distinct nature areas in the west of this island, that together form a beautiful protected natural monument. 

These days of the corona crisis, the villagers miss the visitors that come here to get away from it all. The economy is hard hit. If you feel that you need some post-lockdown nature, walks, cycling routes, endless wide beaches, and beautiful old villages and cities consider seeing this part of the Netherlands this summer. I will always go back to this area that is known as the ‘Kop van Schouwen.’ The tree will be there just before I reach the beach. 

Stockholm, 1 April 2020