Throughout the ancient world, trees were considered sacred. People believed they were animate beings with souls or spirits much like our own, often displaying god-like powers or qualities. Across history, the tree has symbolically or metaphorically represented a balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of human existence -- our bodies are connected and rooted in the physical earth, yet our spirits are drawn, like leaves and limbs, toward the light of the spiritual sun.

Of all trees, the oak has held special significance for many cultures. In ancient Greece, worshipers of Apollo believed that certain sacred groves of oak trees were oracular, places where humans could communicate directly with the gods or ancestral spirits. The oak was believed to be the favored tree of the Greek god Zeus and his Roman counterpart, Jupiter, both gods of thunder and lightning. For this reason, oaks were supposedly struck by lightning more than other trees. In Germany, the oak was dedicated to Domar or Thumar, their god of thunder and the equivalent of Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning.

The Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), is a descendent of ancient oaks that once covered much of the southeastern U.S. Today, Quercus virginiana grows only in a relatively thin corridor along the Gulf coast that extends west into Texas, east into Florida, and then branches north along a splinter of the Atlantic coast into southeastern Virginia.

The Southern live oak is distinguishable among other oak species mainly by its shape and size. The limbs, when untrimmed or unbroken, stretch long and bend low, even dipping to the ground in places as if it's steadying itself with its limbs. A mature live oak can form a mushroom shape with a domed crown that may be more than 75 feet tall and 150 feet wide. The oldest living oaks are 30 ft. and more in circumference.

The expression "live" oak derives from the tree's heartiness and longevity and because its leaves always appear to be green. Actually, the live oak is a semi-evergreen and sheds its leaves periodically throughout the year, usually growing new leaves simultaneously. A single live oak can live as long as a half dozen human generations and some of the oldest known examples of the species are more than 500 years of age.

Native Americans believe that the elder trees of all species have a wise and powerful spirit that lives in them. They say that when you walk among these elder trees and listen with your third ear, the heart, you can sense the presence and wisdom of their spirit.

In the years that I have observed the patient lives of the oaks, sat on their roots, walked under their arched alleyways, and recorded their many moods on film, they have taught me how to listen more with my third ear. At the same time, a growing compassion toward all life has taken root in my heart.

This has been the gift of the oaks to me -- the knowledge of a deeper purpose for my time spent with them, and a deeper understanding of their purpose in my life. With these images I send my prayers that others may experience a more personal connection to nature and the healing potential it offers to the human mind and spirit.

About the Oaks

Throughout the ancient world, trees were considered sacred. People believed they were animate beings with souls or spirits much like our own, often displaying god-like powers or qualities. Across history, the tree has symbolically or metaphorically represented a balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of human existence -- our bodies are connected and rooted in the physical earth, yet our spirits are drawn, like leaves and limbs, toward the light of the spiritual sun.

Of all trees, the oak has held special significance for many cultures. In ancient Greece, worshipers of Apollo believed that certain sacred groves of oak trees were oracular, places where humans could communicate directly with the gods or ancestral spirits. The oak was believed to be the favored tree of the Greek god Zeus and his Roman counterpart, Jupiter, both gods of thunder and lightning. For this reason, oaks were supposedly struck by lightning more than other trees. In Germany, the oak was dedicated to Domar or Thumar, their god of thunder and the equivalent of Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning.

The Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), is a descendent of ancient oaks that once covered much of the southeastern U.S. Today, Quercus virginiana grows only in a relatively thin corridor along the Gulf coast that extends west into Texas, east into Florida, and then branches north along a splinter of the Atlantic coast into southeastern Virginia.

The Southern live oak is distinguishable among other oak species mainly by its shape and size. The limbs, when untrimmed or unbroken, stretch long and bend low, even dipping to the ground in places as if it's steadying itself with its limbs. A mature live oak can form a mushroom shape with a domed crown that may be more than 75 feet tall and 150 feet wide. The oldest living oaks are 30 ft. and more in circumference.

The expression "live" oak derives from the tree's heartiness and longevity and because its leaves always appear to be green. Actually, the live oak is a semi-evergreen and sheds its leaves periodically throughout the year, usually growing new leaves simultaneously. A single live oak can live as long as a half dozen human generations and some of the oldest known examples of the species are more than 500 years of age.

Native Americans believe that the elder trees of all species have a wise and powerful spirit that lives in them. They say that when you walk among these elder trees and listen with your third ear, the heart, you can sense the presence and wisdom of their spirit.

In the years that I have observed the patient lives of the oaks, sat on their roots, walked under their arched alleyways, and recorded their many moods on film, they have taught me how to listen more with my third ear. At the same time, a growing compassion toward all life has taken root in my heart.

This has been the gift of the oaks to me -- the knowledge of a deeper purpose for my time spent with them, and a deeper understanding of their purpose in my life. With these images I send my prayers that others may experience a more personal connection to nature and the healing potential it offers to the human mind and spirit.