Raising its crown 100 feet above the Pendle Hill campus, the stately Canadian hemlock stands guard behind Main House. All during my Pendle Hill stay in the ’70s and ’80s, a subset of Pendle Hillers were drawn to meet the challenge of climbing to its top. For myself, on more than one occasion I discovered new inspiration and perspectives, a clearing of brainy cobwebs, high in its branches.
After negotiating its lower section, where the branches are widely spaced, I would mount the remaining distance to the top almost as climbing a ladder, feet and hands triumphantly moving from bough to evenly spaced bough. In less than five minutes I could be in the crown!
But why such haste? I liked to linger on the way, soaking up the character and spirit of this magnificent conifer, marveling at the strength and charm of its sinews, drinking deep of its pungent perfume while watching the ant-size Pendle Hill folks to-ing and fro-ing below.
My enthusiasm moved me to be an advocate, to share this treetop experience with other intrepid souls. As head of maintenance, at least once I took our maintenance team to this elevated perch to hold our staff meeting. Surely in that setting the four of us must have voiced particularly lofty thoughts about the responsibilities and tasks that lay before us down below.
I once invited one of my open-minded and enterprising student consultees to join me in this hemlock treetop for our weekly consultation. I am sure he remembers it, perhaps as one of his mountain— er, treetop experiences while at Pendle Hill.
Today at Pendle Hill, no one is permitted to climb the hemlock. Some of the lower branches are gone, making it impossible to scale the trunk without a ladder. But I shall ever hold deep in my heart the woody wisdom and faithful fragrance imparted to me by this forest giant.