Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island: The Watchers in the Hammock

Sorrowful spirit

The village of Saint Simons Island, Georgia is a tranquil place, and is particularly so in the early morning.

Just adjacent to the village crossroads is a beautiful oak hammock, where on a recent weekend walk we discovered a wonderful surprise … soulful faces carved into a number of the live oaks.


We literally stumbled into the first one, and had no idea there were more. Our conversation was as expected, “They look like Druids! What a cool sculpture. I wonder who did it?”

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And then, a few yards away, and facing a different direction, we spied another one. Suddenly, it became an “Easter Egg Hunt in the Hammock.” We managed to find eight, and suspect that there are more.


Our research found that the artist responsible is local sculptor, Keith Jennings. He carved the first Tree Spirit in 1982, and has completed 20 so far, with each taking 2-4 days to complete.

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According to local legend, the faces represent sailors lost at sea, and the tree limbs and Spanish moss waving in the breeze show the sailor’s anguish. This makes a good campfire tale, but according to an interview published by the San Diego Reader, Jennings works with each tree’s soul.

“The trees do it all, said Jennings. “I don’t have that much to do with it. The wood speaks to you, ya know?”


Whatever the inspiration, we thoroughly enjoyed the art, and are on the lookout for the other 12. We told you that we’re going to be looking for the “Exotic in America” … and this seems like a pretty good start!

Happy Trails,





We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

5 thoughts

    1. Thanks Tom. We really did stumble on to these carvings, and it’s amazing how many people on the island don’t know of their existence. Hopefully, you guys are getting settled into your apartment in Gerona. It looks pretty posh. BTW, I read that the recovery rate for jetlag is one day for each two hours of time change. ~James

  1. These are really cool and spooky at the same time. Any tree wearing Spanish moss is already very appealing. Add a face peering out, and you’ve got my attention! I can imagine how much fun you had looking for these tree spirits.

    1. Thanks Catherine. I think they’re pretty cool as well. The artist, Keith Jennings, no longer lives on the island, but he returns periodically to carve a new one. He does wonderful work. ~James

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