Big Trees and the Lives They've Changed
A Look at Majestic Giants of Nature and their Effects on Humans
The world's largest -- and possibly oldest -- western redcedar, which lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
Credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR News
Poet Wendell Berry
Credit: Dick Carraco
Berry reads the title poem from his collection, The Timbered Choir (Counterpoint)
Berry reads 'Woods,' from Collected Poems, 1957-1982 (North Point Press)
Find the yellow raincoat in the left of the photo and you've found Ketzel Levine, at the base of a giant, fallen Douglas-fir in Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
Credit: Bob Van Pelt
"The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said..."
from "The Trees," by Philip Larkin
Georgia's champion live oak, The Village Sentinel, spreads its massive arms across a rural retirement community.
Credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR News
"Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?" from "Song of the Open Road," by Walt Whitman
November-December 2003 -- Big trees are the stuff of poetry, religion and story. They are an integral part of the human experience. For some, they are living cathedrals, creatures of solace and symbols of faith. For others, they are rallying points for enormous controversy; their very existence is politically charged.
In our series, "Big Trees and The Lives They've Changed," we tell the story of a few trees and a few people, in the hopes of capturing what makes them great and what leaves us awed. The series was inspired in part by the works of Kentucky poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry, who was interviewed for the series by NPR's Ketzel Levine.
"You've got to understand what kind of creature a tree is," Berry says, "and what kind of a creature the forest is. Because of our great powers of destructiveness, they have to receive from us a certain deference, a certain respect, as we would extend to any neighbor."
Among the neighbors we'll be meeting in this series are the redwoods of California, the Douglas-firs of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and a mighty oak from southern Georgia. The oak is the center of a retirement community, the firs are quarry for a big tree hunter, and the redwoods are a way of life for a fourth-generation rancher who lives off the land. The four-part series, which will air Wednesdays on Morning Edition, begins with a portrait of one of the redwoods' most eccentric champions.
The Bird Singer and His Travel Log
Charles Kellogg was a turn-of-the-century California showman who made his living singing like a bird. Literally. He would open his mouth and out would come an aviary of birdcalls. He used his fame to travel the country spreading the word about the redwoods -- traveling coast-to-coast in a hollowed-out redwood log.
A Walk Among The Giants
When the redwoods of California make the news, it's typically controversial: environmentalists, lumber companies, habitat loss. What often gets lost in the headlines is the wonder of these trees. We profile this legendary species and the people whose lives these trees have changed.
The Big-Tree Hunter
In the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, big-tree hunter Bob Van Pelt bushwhacks into a little-known forest in search of a record-breaking Douglas-fir.
A Very Live Oak
The Village Sentinel is the oldest and most revered member of a large retirement community in Waycross, Ga. We discover the secrets of its strength and experience its powers of solace through the stories told by its octogenarian admirers.
Related NPR Stories
A Conversation with Wendell Berry
More Stories by Ketzel Levine
Wendell Berry Links
The Earth Restoration and Reforestation Alliance
National Alliance for Community Trees