Welcome, Friend, to the Cathedral of the Hemlocks. Walk quietly up the aisle and join us for our Sunday Service.
Cast your eyes to Heaven and give thanks, for here in the sanctuary of Cathedral State Park dwells one of the last stands of the virgin hemlock forest that once blanketed the Appalachian Highlands.
Small are the acolytes in the presence of even a tree of modest proportions. The most immense hemlocks here stand 90 feet in height.
Brother Don and Brother Robb pause from their labors, resting amongst the pillars of the church.
The altar of Tsuga canadensis, the Eastern Hemlock, is clothed in rich brown, deeply fissured bark.
Hear now the Word of the Forest: Each sapling shall grow strong and true, and bear needles adorned with white stripes in pairs below. Each in its third or fourth decade shall produce seeds enrobed in cones. The days of a tree shall be counted in centuries, the eldest marking 500 years on this good Earth.
The baptismal font. This holy Cathedral is shady, cool, and humid; ideal refuge for climax species such as hemlocks. Yet this is an inclusive church; many other species of trees are welcome here, as well as wildflowers, ferns, and club mosses.
Rejoice, for in death there is life: a fallen congregant nurtures a choir of mushrooms, lichens and mosses, as well as a host of insects.
In awe of one (perhaps two?) of the eldest of the trees, Brother Robb offers a benediction:
Go in Peace, my child, and may the Blessing of the Trees follow you all the days of your life.