I have just realised that the last three posts on this blog have been tree-centric. This was in no way deliberate, so must say something about where I am at I suppose.
I live amongst trees. Up the hill, they are mostly commercial spruce and larch, but downwards, it is mostly old oak trees, with a smattering of birch and our small orchard of apples, pears, nuts and soft fruit. In do not take this privilege for granted.
Many years ago, I was driving a friend from London up through Argyll and pointed out a beautiful copper beech tree- the sort that must have been planted as a specimen tree a couple of hundred years ago, and now has the shape and beauty that those who planted it could only imagine.
Look said, in over-excited tones, that is my favourite tree.
My friend, who is inclined towards the larconic, glanced at me with confusion, and after a while said I don’t think I have ever met anyone with a favourite tree before.
I felt a little stung, like some kind of yokel with too much straw behind my ears, but then reflected that he probably had a favourite bus shelter, or a favourite railway arch. He is from London after all. I, however, live amongst the remnants of the great Argyll rainforest and in this I am richly blessed (although there is this one bus shelter I remember fondly…)
Trees, or so we are told, have healing powers. Check out this old post examining the psychologically restorative powers of wilderness (and how it even helps our concentration and attentiveness towards random tasks.)
Then there is all that forest bathing stuff, which turns out not to be a new fad, but rather an ancient Japanese meditiative practice known as shinrin yoku in which we are encouraged to be amongst trees, observe nature and breathe deeply.
Trees do something else though, which we are only just beginning to appreciate. They are the mothers of soil. These benign giants are the shelter beneath which life can be lived. They remind us of the long view; of how change that matters is not measured only in human lifetimes.
The other truth that soon comes to us is that, like man, no tree is an island alone to itself. It lives in community.
We entered a competition piece at a ceramics exhibition that tried to describe this relational nature of trees. It contrasted two trees, one on top of each other, seperated by prespex as if in a mirror or an hourglass, and used the two ‘hermaneutic’ poems from this post. I really liked it, but sadly, no prizes this time…