Branches embrace each other, groaning in a language long vanished from human comprehension. I stand entranced, watching the limbs of the ancient sycamore rub and flail about, lost in contemplation of one tree within a vast deciduous forest. Its grey bark shades to rufous around the wide girth. Where the scaly skin has peeled pallid undertones peek out. The semi-rough rind grates under my hand as I stroke its trunk, murmuring dulcet adorations to it. My feet yearn to climb up the sturdy boughs, up towards the sky. I trace the shallow sinuous path of its roots playing hide and seek in the undergrowth. They spread laterally, probing through dirt, a neural network of arboreal synapses. I listen to that peculiar rasping susurrus of leaves chattering as the wind ruffles them. The sound carries me to another time when this enigmatic place quivered with restless joy.
Mountains intimidate me with their austerity, oceans stupefy me with their infinity. Trees, however, comfort me with their resilience. I befriend them in my travels, I feel kinship with their permanent dream-state, I admire their uncompromising individuality. I can understand how the Celts held sacred rites in groves or why Egyptians believed the soul found afterlife bliss in a sylvan setting. Trees are one of the few left to possess primordial magic. Evergreens in their immortality, banyans in their illimitableness, oaks in their fortitude convey to us creation’s enchantment. In their variegated forms, in their regenerative prowess, in their union of celestial and nether, trees harken us back to that original Elysium where mortals and nature dwelt in harmony.
There is inherent value in a tree. If it never shelters animals from the tempest, if it refuses to shade weary travelers, if it rejects becoming lumber or pulp, if its food is inedible, if its sap is useless, if it depletes the supply of oxygen, it remains priceless. In Katsumi Komagata’s pop-up book, “Little Tree,” the graphic designer reveals how every tree stoically, openly undergoes the circle of life, thereby teaching us how to accept the organic rhythm and progression of existence. Though no one notices the seedling, it flourishes into a mature plant without self-loathing. When winter assaults with gale and precipitation, the adult version endures through to spring, without breaking under the onslaught. By its patient adaptability Komagata’s tree shows us how to manage complexity while living simply.
They belong to themselves, keenly aware of their particularities, selfish of their peculiar needs. Yet, they cohabit with profligate generosity. They manifest in myriad anatomies — no one would confuse a pine for a willow — while maintaining their essence. Their unique chemical ability, photosynthesis is harbinger of sustenance. Their crucial biomolecule chlorophyll’s inability to absorb the green spectrum is ingrained in our psyche as the hallmark of growth. They probe, grind, and heave under our feet. They split, stretch, and fling above our heads. Every movement performed, nonetheless, so imperceptibly that all the while we perceive trees as mute, abiding entities. They elicit memories, kindle our sacred senses. Trees are inextricably linked to our survival.
I think about trees often. Behind my childhood backyard, the copse of eastern hemlock slaughtered for real estate development haunts me. I dream about swinging from the crape-myrtle at my grandfather’s house, my arms brimming with its bright pink blossoms. Sometimes, the pungent throng of swaying eucalyptus dotting the coastal slope interrupts my work, stirring me with emotion I cannot decipher. I am besotted with the entire species. I do not have a favorite, for how shall I choose among their glory? An eager sapling in a parking lot gladdens my heart; a hoary beech arouses my veneration; a furtive taiga beguiles me. These arboreal wonders include me in the universe’s ebb and flow, allow me to revel in contradiction, lure me with glimpses of divine grandeur. In their presence I learn afresh sundry lessons. I love to be in their company in all seasons, to meditate at their feet, to discover the secret of their speech. I enter forests seeking affinity and solace, but when I leave I take with me the arcane import of another world.
Trees for Life is an organization dedicated to restoring the native Scottish Highland forests. Since 1989, through the help of volunteers, they have planted over one million indigenous trees in the region. Their ongoing programs include management of the Dundreggan Estate and the Woodland Ground Flora Project.
Do you have a favorite tree? Tell us a story about it in the comments below.
Your beautiful blog speaks to the senses.
Your generous comment fills me with gratitude. 🙂
I just found this post. Trees speak to me and I answer. Without them, mankind will also seize to exist. Great post – and for myself, my forest and its trees has healed me so many times, more than I can count. If i was not able to walk in the forest, I would die.
“Trees speak to me and I answer.” How beautifully you phrase your love for trees. Isn’t it wonderful how nature has been a salve to so many of us? Whether it is trees or oceans or wildflowers or mountains, I could not bear to live on a planet without. May we all have a lifetime of dwelling with trees in our future.
That would be something…to dream of. Thank you for your lovely response! ♥
Only just discovered this great post. Thank you. I’m yet another tree lover.
Hooray for another tree lover! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words.
The sound is exceptionally unwinding and quieting!..
🙂 Thank you, glad you enjoyed the atmosphere.
The sound is very relaxing and calming!
I think so too, though I know some think it sounds a little eerie. I love the sound of trees moving in the forest. Glad you liked the soundtrack as well!
The sound of the universe.
A beautiful song for the trees! It is quite difficult to choose a favorite and travel always reminds me how little I know about the world. In Ecuador, the varieties are vast and I find it impossible to keep track of them all. I did get to climb a massive 150 year old fig tree…the experience was out of this world!
Wow, a 150-year old fig tree?! I’m imagining the joys of climbing such a beauty….Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. Trees are a constant delight to me and I am thrilled you enjoyed my little ode to them.
I’ve always looked at them as seasoned ancients; with a world of wisdom, with utmost humility, showering the love and care that comes from it.
Love your musings 🙂
Thank you. I love hearing from fellow tree lovers! 🙂
A beautiful tribute to the wonder and majesty of trees! Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for stopping by to read and for your kind words.
The world would be different if everyone adored trees like you..nice blog on trees.
Haha. 😀 It certainly would be! Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.
Trees are priceless. I agree. Unfortunately, there are only too many logging companies and developers who seem not to see things quite that way.
True. Here’s hoping there is a future where they value trees for more than the cost of wood. Thanks so much for reading this story and sharing your thoughts here.
You’re very welcome. I share your hope for the future. 🙂
I find being in amongst trees to be incredibly soothing and restful; me, alone, in the cooling shade while large solid living rocks tower above me, while fallen leaves and broken bits of bark crunch beneath my feet. I grew up near a pine forest on the west coast of England and I spent many an evening running through them, so I’ve always had this affinity for woodland; even now I always try to find a woodland to walk through at some point when I’m on one of my trips abroad, and my typical walk from home to work sees me wander through two small woods. I have a couple of friends who’ve called me “a wood elf”! 🙂 Thank you for writing this on trees, much more eloquently than I could.
Thank you for sharing your woodland experiences. As a tree lover, it gladdens my heart to discover fellow wood elves. The world needs as many of them as it can get to preserve and extoll the magic of trees for future generations. I am thrilled that you stopped by and took the time to read my story!
Wow! What amazing read. I was there in that forest with you. I especially love the soundtrack you shared, it really added to the atmosphere.
Trees really are beautiful, life-supporting, emotional-healing machines. Definitely worth hugging 🙂
🙂 Thank you so very much. Always wonderful to meet another kindred tree lover!
Trees are so beautiful and so necessary. People will regret abusing them. I definitely respect them as I know they can be unforgiving (we lost a dear friend who was crushed by a large limb while working on a tree). But, now living in a forest myself, I am rejuvenated every time I look out a window or wander outside.
Nature in every form can be unforgiving to humans. Being able to appreciate and respect the power of the wild will go a long way towards preserving it for future generations. I love that you live in a forest — how refreshing! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject.