The Wisdom Tree

photo taken by me that day

This is the Wisdom Tree. It is located at the top of a long, hard hike in Los Angeles. Being at the top of this spot made me feel like myself. To be straight up – I hate hiking. I don’t consider myself athletic. My friends convinced me to go on this hike, telling me I could do it. As I spent an hour going up, I struggled. I fell on the rocks. I was dirty. I was somehow both hot AND cold. Then I got to the top. Looking at the Wisdom Tree, I felt so much strength both in myself and in the tree! It’s just thriving alone in a dry, dirt covered area. It even survived a big brushfire on the mountain that killed off any other trees. According to legend, the tree was planted as a Christmas tree and somehow managed to survive (Aron.) Now tons of people go to it for inspiration. A man named Mark Rowlands took a box up to the tree and left some journals and writing utensils. Now, everyone goes up and can either share wisdom or read others. I sat on a log on the mountain reading all the inspirational messages others had written. Some were light hearted and fun, and others pored their heart out. All the inspiration came from the tree that had survived against all odds. This is something that I identify with. To me, this carries my history as well as many others.


credit: Mark Rowlands

I have always identified as an “inside person.” I’ve always either lived in suburbs or cities. I’ve always enjoyed the comforts of being inside. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to branch out more. Although I live in Pennsylvania, I go to Los Angeles often. Although it may seem ironic because it’s a huge city, it’s made me appreciate nature more. Natural landscapes on the west coast are so different than the ones we have here. I realized at a certain time I had grown immune to recognizing the beauty in the greenery in my own backyard. The Wisdom Tree helped remind me of that. In her piece “Small Wonder” Barbara Kingsolver wrote, “People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it.” This rang so true for me. I need to be reminded sometimes. I think we all do. Nature reminds us how small we really are. It reminds us of both our strengths and our weaknesses. It can give us hope. In addition to the spiritual/mental benefits that nature gives us, Kingsolver reminds us that nature physically gives us all the tools in order to live and have our creature comforts. She reminds us, “that the oxygen in our lungs was recently inside a leaf.”

Works Cited:

Aron, Hillel. “The Wisdom Tree Is Becoming an L.A. Landmark. But Will Fame Kill It?” LA Weekly, 22 May 2019,

This source tells about the way the Wisdom Tree came about. It shares it’s meaning. It also discusses how it becoming a hiking hot spot may one day put it at risk.   It is written by a staff writer to a popular Los Angeles magazine.  It includes linked sources.

3 Replies to “The Wisdom Tree”

  1. Hi Mandi, Wonderful post!

    I never knew there was a tree like this in LA of all places but it goes to show that there are beautiful and magical parts of mother nature that still exists today. CA is one of my most favorite places to visit, but I’m mostly familiar with the Bay area. In any case, most of CA weather is great, as one can enjoy outdoor activities on any given day.

    You mentioned that the tree survived a “big brushfire”, which I found interesting especially because California is known for a lot of fires, and factors due to human error and/ or weather conditions worsens the crisis. In fact, the LA Times put out an article in 2018 about the trees that that survived the wildfires in Paradise, CA., and this reminded me about your post, as you mentioned the “Wisdom Tree”.
    When I read the article in the LA Times I thought “what a miracle” that the trees survived, even though parts such as shrubs and dried leaves burned off. There was a lot of news at that time about those fires but I couldn’t help but wonder about those trees. After all they were probably there for hundreds of years and of course, if they could talk there would be so much to learn from them. Now after reading your post, I’m even more curious about how trees can survive fires. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I can relate to your blog, I too have been the LA but didn’t really go much outdoor activity. I honestly am not a fan of being in the woods especially being hot and sweaty, I also don’t like bugs. I went on my first hike about two years ago and it was so fun, and so interesting to see and hear nothing but nature it is truly amazing how nature despise our likes and dislikes about it. I believe that people will not agree with the ” we need nature” statement until they go out in it and get that feeling that they can’t get anywhere else. The problem with that is how do we convince people to do that, maybe everyone needs friends like yours that drag or push them to do something even though they don’t 100% really want to.

  3. Hi Mandy,

    I appreciate your story about the tree in Los Angeles. I’ve always wanted to visit since I love warm weather! I also enjoyed seeing that you feel so connected to nature and try to get outside more.. I, too, consider myself an inside person. I think that nature is definitely a great way for us to take a step back from all of the craziness that we feel in our day to day lives and to recharge.. we are all connected to nature just like Kingsolver says, “the oxygen inside our lungs was recently inside a leaf.” I like that quote a lot because it also reminds me of how important it is for us to take care of nature and to treat it with respect no matter where we are in the world (which also helps us to build a hope for a bedrock of democracy!)

    Really nice post, Mandi.

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