My friend Lydia and I wanted to go for a walk today. “Let’s go to France!” she said. “Huh?” I replied. It wasn’t the only jolting moment of the day. Turns out that the French border is only a 40-minute drive from her home in Nukerke, Belgium.
We roamed the French roads, which felt like Belgian roads, except there were subtle differences in the architecture. Soon before our eyes was the Château de l’Hermitage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 1780s. No subtlety there.
Two many bathrooms.
We wandered onto a trail through the woods. Soon it widened and became cement. It parted around a large circle of grass. As we approached, Lydia asked “Shall we go left or right?” I smiled without thought. I led her arm-in-arm right down the middle. My path is clear.
As you look at the photo of my friend with arms wide, do you see anything potentially strange in the background? I didn’t.
As we strolled on, my eyes didn’t believe what they were seeing.
Ahead was a huge tree … a sequoia tree. They live in the United States, in California. How did this giant find its way to France? Did someone bring a seed across the ocean in 1903? I was stunned.
I wrapped my arms around the ancient tree and felt my fingers press into the outer bark … so red, so old. I craned my neck through the branches to the sky. A new friend.
The sign said that the sequoia was 120 years old, 144 metres tall (472 feet) and 5.26 metres in circumference (17 feet). Immensity beyond measurements.
How mysterious this life is
How glad I am to be here