We went next door to the cemetery, one of my favorite places to walk. We had two dogs and my sister's sister-in-law in tow.
Seal, my nephew's dog, was having a great time, making sure we all saw the squirrels. "Hey, guys, are you paying attention! There is a SQUIRREL over there! If we RUN, we might catch it!"
Sissy, could care less. She is not thrilled that Seal is here for a visit. "Squirrel, shmirrel, you are ruining my walky. Why are you here? When are you leaving, you hyper yellow dog that eats all my treats? GRRRRR!"
As we were out and about, admiring squirrels and checking out gravestones, I marveled at the huge White Cedars, Thuja occidentalis, that were planted around the cemetery. Another name for them is Arborvitae, literally meaning Tree of Life (arbor-tree, vitae-life). How ironic!
The story of how the White Cedar got the name Tree of Life is an interesting one. In the 1530's, French explorer, Jacques Cartier was on an expedition along the St. Lawrence River. He had a crew of 110 men and two Native American youth. Almost the entire crew was suffering from scurvy, a terrible disease that causes swollen joints, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, extreme fatigue, chronic diarrhea, bone fractures, tooth loss, purple spots under the skin and death. On their way up the river, he dropped his young guides off at their home village, thinking that they were close to death. Ten days later, he passed by the village and found the boys completely well! He asked how this was possible and was taught how to chop and boil the leaves of the White Cedar to make a potent drink. In deep gratitude for curing their sickness, the explorers carried the tree back to France. The miraculous tree was named “l’arbor de vie” by the King of France and planted in their medicinal gardens.
What a majestic and stunning tree. Compare how tall it is to the fence behind it.
I love the flattened, scale-like leaves of Arborvitae. It also has a very pleasant scent.
I thought the story was very appropriate today. Realizing many of the first explorers to America, the pilgrims included, often did not get enough nutrients to stave off horrible diseases. It is good to take pause and give thanks for all the sacrifices that were and are made to get us to where we are today.