A lone pine tree stands at the midway point of the Wisdom Tree Trail in Los Angeles. At first glance, it looks a little scraggly, but the tree acts as both an important focal point and a metaphor. It is the lone survivor of a devastating fire that swept the Hollywood Hills back in 2007.
The Wisdom Tree (AKA Wishing Tree, Giving Tree, Tree of Life, Magic Tree) wears its scars from the fire proudly and, in doing so, offers itself as a life lesson to the looks-obsessed world below it.
“Stand tall,” it says. “You are stronger than you know. Don’t prune your branches to look like every other tree on the hill. Spread them out, man. Show the world your magical self.”
The tree stands sentry over a weathered box full of journals and jottings. The idea is to read through the life lessons, and then leave one of your own. According to an L.A. Times article, Mark Rowlands first placed the empty ammunition box there in 2007. He keeps an eye on it and replenishes the journals and pens.
Because we were racing a rainstorm, my daughter Katherine and I did not pause too long when we came upon the tree halfway through our early morning hike. But, we did each contribute a line or two to the journals we found.
I love the never-ending story feel of all those journals and notes stuffed in that box. I imagine you could hike up there every day and always find a fresh thought to ponder.
But, I think the realest piece of wisdom is that proud old tree itself, reaching its roots through that scorched earth and pulling life through its branches.