Several years ago I visited an old Romanesque church in rural Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The Abbaye, Notre-Dame de Lure was founded in the 12th century. Now the only remaining part is the church and a small cottage, however, pilgrims and tourists still visit.
It is especially loved for the enormous, ancient walnut and lime trees that shade the courtyard and provide a welcome haven for travelers. The trees are immense and full of character. They have stood sentinel at the entrance of the church for hundreds of years. They are not so common in the surrounding countryside, but these trees have been nurtured and dedicated along with the church.
It is not unusual for monasteries to be situated in stunning landscapes, and for monks to cultivate trees and gardens. In Provence many monasteries care for lavender and olive trees, plants that support people with food and medicine. Walnut and lime trees are both also highly prized for their gifts of food and medicine.
At Notre-Dame de Lure we were greeted by a pilgrim, who was the self-appointed guardian of the church and grounds. He showed us the beautiful flower garden that he grows to add beauty and joy to the place. As each traveler got ready to depart he offered a tree—a young seedling he had potted up and grown. He was a monk–he wanted to spread the joy of trees, and give each person a lasting memory of that very special place.
I was unable to accept a tree to carry across the ocean. I got a greater gift though: a wonderful memory and a dream of following his lead.
It is becoming increasingly clear that our world wide tree community is critical to the survival of a whole spectrum of life on the planet, including human life. At the same time tree populations, especially hardwoods and old growth forest areas, are at risk. Each small step helps, and planting and caring for a tree is a joyful and helpful step.
We have young trees: we hope you will consider adopting one.