The Long Con...templation

Let me tell you a story. May it be that this is legend and true, or legend and parable, do not let fall from your mind the honest core of meaning herein.

At the college of Oxford, they take great pride in the long legacy their hollowed halls contain. The school proper was not founded in a traditional sense, but teachings are known to have started in the 11th century of the common era. The most recognizable part of this institution though has a gloriously long name.

The Warden and Scholars of St Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford, founded in 1379, soon became known as “New College” to distinguish itself from an older existing college of St. Mary. This gives the “New College” a 639 year history. There is a particular point of pride held in the dinning hall.

There are enormous and beautiful oak beams spanning the ceiling. There came a day some 530 years after it opened, that the oak beams needed replacing. They were infested with beetles and no long strong. The College agonized over the problem for some time. Oaks of this size and quality had become rare in Europe. Much of the great forests taken away by the onset of industrialization and expanding population.

A Junior Fellow suggested that the College Lands may contain something useful. Oxford owns large swaths of private lands for keeping the traditional British countryside and forests alive and well respected. These are scattered around the country and cared for by a college Forester. The Forester had not been on the College grounds proper in quite a long time, and it was hard to locate him in the wild.

When they finally did have him fetched, the Fellows asked if he knew of any oaks growing on these lands that could be used.

“Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

You see, the builders and founders of the great New College had a mind for time. They knew that all old oak becomes “beetly” given time. Oak beams always becomes beetly. Understanding how important this hall would be to the life of those that pass threw it they wanted to ensure the future.

Thus a grove of oaks had been planted and cared for across more than five centuries. Each College Forester passing down the note that “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”

Nobody is quite sure if this specific statement is true. What is known is that the Forester grows his oaks quite large before harvesting. And even if no single grove of oaks was actually planted for this one roof, what is true is that Oxford maintained the lands that it drew lumber from for centuries.

We can all take a note about sustainability from this story.