The european olive tree is now grown throughout the world and has become a symbol important to many cultures. Most recognize it as representing peace, abundance and even glory. In the 18th century a graft of one of the trees in the Mediterranean was brought to California, specifically the Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769. There was rumored to be two surviving orchards of olive trees in the mid 1800s.
The olive has always been known for its many qualities. Not only as a food, but the oil has medicinal qualities and serves as an anti-septic. It has special religious significance for more than one major religion. Olive branches are used in many ceremonies, the oil from the fruit as well. The leafy branches has often been used in rituals of purification and the leaves and twigs circles together as a crown that would be used to crown kings and victors of conquest.
This weekend I obtained a small piece of olive wood, recently cut from the trunk of an old tree. Probably a tree directly descended from the tree brought here from the holy land by Spanish missionaries. You see an olive tree lives for thousands of years, and grows very slowly. The wood is extremely dense and has these very deep colored veins resulting from the twisted and gnarled growth pattern. The trees can grow from 5 to 50 feet and the trunk of the tree can also become very wide, some reporting as much as 6 feet in diameter. Rumors abound of trees in Jerusalem that were around when Jesus was alive, or in Greece when Plato taught his students.
Who knows how old this little piece of live wood is that I have in my hand right now. Probably not thousands, but I would venture, but he look of the trunk it came from, at least 60 to 70 years. Probably the same age of the old man, with bright blue eyes and an infectious smile that gave it to me. He seemed to almost reluctantly part with it, as if he had some thought that lingered with the piece of wood manifest during one of the weekends that he spent polishing it. Even as he talked to me, he had a polishing paper, working slowly around another bit of wood.
There is something about doing things with your hands, holding an object, manipulating the universe with physical touch. It seems that an idea born in the heart, goes to the mind and eventually becomes manifest with the hands. So here I hold a piece of old wood, polished with love and care, and consider the effect and impact of things that I create on the world.