In the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, about a ten-minute drive west of the French Quarter on the south side of St. Charles Street, there is a park and a zoo named after John J. Audubon. The main drive through this park is essentially a semicircle. If you view this semicircle as the bottom half of a clock-face, and drive around the outside until you come to about 4 o'clock, you will see a massive live oak tree.
As poetic as "The Tree of Life" sounds, its real name is "Etienne de Bore", after New Orleans' first mayor Jean Etienne de Bore, at whose wedding the tree was planted. That was back in October of 1792, making the tree over two centuries old. It is a Live Oak, or quercus virginiana, and thus retains its coloration all year. These mundane facts should not color your perception of the tree; it's bigger than these words.
The first time I was ever in New Orleans, this tree was introduced to me as "The Tree of Life" by Ken, and Josh, Jay, Jason & I all came along to see it. As soon as its clearing came into view--a clearing which is home to many large trees--there was no question of which tree we were there to see. It's simply massive. It sprawls through one's sense of space; it alters one's entire perception of the word "tree."
The trunk measures over 26 feet in circumference; if it were circular and you knew pi, you could estimate its mean diameter. The main lower branches extend out for at least 30 feet before touching the ground... and having rested their airborne bulk on the earth, give in to their tropisms and arch upward again and continue to grow outward. The exposed parts of the root system look like a giant wooden carving of a lava flow, and rest like a broad skirt around the base, easily covering a circle more than 20 feet in diameter. Beards of Spanish moss grow from every available crevice. The area that it covers in shade must be comparable to a baseball diamond, but Abner Doubleday himself, having seen this tree, would concede that the Tree of Life deserves the space far more than a sandlot.
The tree--of Life, Etienne de Bore, whatever you call it--is bigger than its strictly physical presence. Even if you've seen pictures, I doubt you will understand what it is. Like so many other things, it simply must be touched to be understood.
Could this tree be in our future? I sure hope so.