"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
In Japan, the practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku is a way to take in the forest through the senses. Forest therapy is now popular as a mindfulness practice in the west as fewer people regularly seek opportunities to be purposefully and peacefully out in the natural world for refreshment of the soul. Historically, evergreen trees figured prominently in all aspects of life. The tall trunks of the Scots Pine made excellent masts for ships, and it was thought that they were also used as tall markers on the landscape at crossroads of ancient cairns. The Druids associated the evergreen pine with the coming of the sun after the dark winter. Together with the yew tree, they formed the twinned tree symbols of the winter solstice. The yew represented the death of the old year while the pine embodied the birth of the new. 🌲
Some Sundays in December are referred to as "Christmas Tree Sunday" as people typically put up an ornamental tree or simply enjoy the seasonal displays. Whatever your tradition or hemisphere, the evergreen provides year round beauty.
Evergreen Day, December 19th, was originally established by the National Arborist Association to create a day to appreciate the beauty of these trees independent of their seasonal dressing of glittering lights and ornaments.
Evergreens have played an important role in many societies throughout the ages, often selected for religious observances due to their seemingly eternal nature.
Most species of conifers (e.g., Hemlock, Blue Spruce, Red Cedar, and White, Scots, and Jack Pine) are evergreens.
The Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the most widely distributed conifer worldwide. It can be found as far north as the Arctic Circle, as far east as Siberia and as far south as Spain.
The oldest pine in Scotland is located in Glen Loyne in Inverness-shire and is estimated to be more than 550 years old.
For more about the long use of evergreens as seasonal celebrations of which the Christmas tree is only the latest incarnation of pine, spruce and fir, click the picture of a pollen puff from a Scots pine.