Ever since I can remember, trees and plants have meant so much to me. My first real memory in a garden was as a tiny 18-mth-old toddler, visiting my grandparents. It was Spring and the daffodils and tulips were in bloom. I remember moving along a concrete and stone path, as fast as my wobbly little legs could carry me, toward a brilliant red tulip. I remember… I wanted to smell it. It did have a subtle scent; slightly sweet, like rain. My grandfather, observing, was so intrigued by my single-mindedness, that he captured the moment on his old ‘Brownie’ black and white camera. I bent ever so delicately, without touching the bloom, to sniff-in, a long slow reverie. I was inconsolable when taken back indoors. I wanted to be in the garden. Lots of tears and I struggled terribly when picked up against my will.
Growing up, I spent more time in my garden than indoors. I would examine caterpillars, ladybugs, worms (apparently I was fascinated with them as a toddler), and I would have my hands in the soil more often than not. Night time journeys in the back of the car, I would stare longingly at the trees that loomed up in the headlights like sentinels along the road. I would spend hours deciding if they were friendly or not. Most were.
I grew, At age 8, I tried to convert our wooden garden shed into my own house for me and my collection of pet insects. At age 10, a school mate (he is now my husband) gave me an acorn he had found. He later gave me some maggots (I think to scare me), but I loved the gift, so the joke fell flat. At age 11, I would leave that school, and not see him again for another 36 years. I kept the acorn for a while, and then planted it.
“The creation of a thousand forests
is in one acorn.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
A friend’s mother watched me once in my early teenage years, her daughter and I would go into their garden, and I would tell my friend how to talk to the flowers. We would walk solemnly around the garden, addressing all the plants with “hello, how are you today?” She told me years later that she had been very worried about me, thinking that I was an abnormal child. Maybe she was right. My mother had a nervous breakdown after my birth, and she always told people that I was evil. I was an intuitive child. My Grandfather recognised it. I think my Mother was scared by it.
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson
Mine is not an unusual story and I have always been a tree-hugger kind of person. I love to touch and talk to trees silently in my mind… society is not kind to people who appear to be talking to ‘nobody,’ so I keep my secrets hidden.
We are all born with an innate sense of what brings us life. Unfortunately, it is mostly educated out of us. I was different. My Mother was too sick, and my Father too busy to take much notice of me. Sisters were older, and had little time for a sibling so much younger. I was left in charge of my own thoughts. I did not find school enthralling, but perhaps that was good because I never lost my sense of wonder at the magic in nature.
Trees are the most long lived life form that we have (if they are left to grow to full maturity). ‘The Fortingall Yew’ in Scotland is Britain’s oldest tree (nearly 2,000 years old). Yews are considered to be sacred trees. First worshipped by druids, Yews were considered to be able to rejuvenate and resurrect themselves (when a dying tree branch touches the ground, it will root and start a new tree). Christians adopted them for obvious reasons, and to also appease the Pagan communities. The oldest Yews in Britain are always in church graveyards where there is a reluctance to remove them.
The next most iconic tree, is the oak. There is a great oak tree in Sherwood Forest (fabled home of Robin Hood). It is thought to be between 800 and 1000 years old. The rest of the Forest was felled, replaced by a pine monoculture. The Great Oak is now held aloft with scaffolding and cordoned off from people. As a child, though, I stood inside the hollow of the tree which could hold at least 6 adults inside its hollow trunk. Access was through a narrow slit in the outer bark. I loved the feeling of being inside a tree. I wanted to be there by all by myself. I was really sad when my mother joined me inside. The Great Oak has since become frail and the tree is in now danger of collapse. With all of the other Oak trees removed, it has become starved and lonely. I have never been back to see it, even though I easily could, I do not want to see it in distress.
Oaks are my favourite trees, but I love all trees. They hold the secrets to life and provide the earth’s natural air conditioning and protection from the sun. They provide nuts and fruits, and some have edible leaves and flowers. They provide shelter from winds, capture and release moisture in the water cycle, and give themselves up each autumn, replenishing the soil with nutrients for fungi, microorganisms, small invertebrates, beetles, wasps, bees, and other insects that make their homes in our soil. The trees themselves can be home to insects, lizards, squirrels, primates, snakes and birds, making a tree one of the most sharing lifeforms on the planet. A thousand lifeforms can live in a tree.
And the trees can communicate as this short piece explains…
I hate to see them felled, but trees can provide us with timber for homes, firewood and mulch for soil conditioning. We should use these resources sparingly though.
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Forests have disappeared in ever increasing numbers, for agriculture, cattle farms and paper and biomass production. We humans have lost the connection of what trees really mean to our lives. There are calls for forest regeneration, but the ideas seem to have monocultures in mind, to cage the trees by species, rather like we cage animals. This is not natural. It is just an excuse to use the trees, rather than care for their spirit.
I want to see real forests regenerated where they have been clear cut for agriculture. I wonder if you feel the same? Can we bring life back to our planet.
Some people have already proved that cleared forest can be regenerated and still provide some income for local people.
We certainly need actions. I am hopeful. I keep talking to the Trees, I hope that we can save them. Do you think that we can?
Under Whispering Trees ~ A magical reverie in the forest
Oh, and before I forget, Joseph (the young man in Kerala, India, that I chatted with the other day on Twitter), sent me a picture of his forest home.