Recently we had visitors who had just returned from Italy. We talked of how easily you can stumble upon ancient Roman ruins lying beside the road or tumbled along the edge of a parking lot. Paving stones from some ancient road where the legendary 13th Legion once marched; the foundations of a fallen aqueduct; broken urns and shards of pottery. None of it cordoned off to protect. None of it of much value.
It’s a common sight for the native populations, but an unexpected pleasure and exciting discovery for visiting tourists. In some ways these ruins impact us more deeply than the ruins we find with tourist guides or behind museum walls.
As we were talking, I pointed to the “Roman Oaks” in the meadow outside our window.
I’ve come to see these fallen giants, the ruins of ancient oaks that lie scattered in the hills outside our home, with the same sense of tender regard and respect. Once they had been huge and thriving ecosystems, little cities providing shelter and food for a vast variety of creatures large and small. Some dominated the landscape for centuries. Children were born and grew old and died in full view of their robust splendor. The trees that now surround these ruins were tiny saplings or green shoots or still bound within round acorns when these giants spread their roots across the hillsides and threw vast shadows across the land.
I’ve come to love these ruins. There’s beauty in the sleek stripped limbs, sculptured by the wind and rain and passing predators. Beauty in their moss and lichen painted bark. Beauty in the way their sharp ruins rise like flames against the sky. Beauty in their hollowed trunks and upturned roots. I walk among them with their fine mulch crumbled underfoot and feel a sense of timelessness. The past and present tangled together.
I’ve gathered a few photos here to share with you.