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Bristlecone Pine

A Poem by Chase Ambler


The ancient Bristlecone stands

gnarled and battered against the centuries.

Each twist in its bark a memory of a fellow tree lost.

The wildfire flames

emulated in the swirl of the grain.

The rock-slide pummeling

recalled in the knotted roots.

The insect plagues

etched in the mottled rhytidome.

Yet the ax of man

feared in the bent branches reaching back to protect

the trunk, the aged core,

the millennia of knowledge stored within.

With ring upon ring, like tome upon tome

in the libraries constructed from fallen wood,

the Bristlecone forest silently writes

the history of the planet.


Whether upon rocky cliff or rolling hill

the roots entwine with the earth,

drawing her nutrients, her love,

in an embrace that has endured

the grave floods of spring,

the furnace rays of summer,

the knell gales of autumn,

and the icy tomb of winter.


From lunar cycle to solar cycle, on and on,

reaching for the sky with withered and weathered limbs,

declaring in a soft voice, often lost in the wind,

that time does not defeat you.

Time only strengthens the bond with

the terrestrial,

the celestial,

the astral.

To gaze upon the form of a Bristlecone Pine

is to witness the love-story of Earth.


~ Reflection ~

I’ve had a fascination with Bristlecone Pines for a while now. That fascination sort of coalesced into a frenzy of research on them late one night. The unfathomable amount of time that these battered trees live on this planet is astounding. They have literally seen it all and recorded the years in their tree rings. The oldest Bristlecone Pine is over 5,000 years old. I still can’t get over that fact.

In the first stanza of the poem I try to show the beauty of these extremely long-lived trees by comparing events that have happened over their lifetimes to their physical appearance as well as by using some personification of the trees as writers/historians. The second stanza moves from the physical to the emotional by comparing their roots to a life-sustaining embrace that the tree has with the earth—an embrace that survives the many yearly struggles a tree must face. In the third stanza we move from the yearly challenges to the much longer relationship with the planet and universe.

If you ever get the chance to visit a Bristlecone Pine grove, I strongly urge you to take it. Unlike the gigantic Redwoods forests, which have their own awe-inspiring draw, a Bristlecone grove has that calm, patient, meditative attraction. They are not flashy, they understand there’s no need for that, and they are not immense, but they forge on living their slow lives watching, learning, and recording the earth. They literally draw the planet into their bark, into their being, into their soul. And that is a beautiful thing.

Photo: Infinite Forests Photography 


Chase Ambelr - Headshot

Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his two children may have the greatest impact yet. He currently lives with his wife, daughter, son, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel.

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