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The Souls of Trees

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My best friend's father once confided to me that trees were his first friends.  I understand completely, for they were certainly among my first friends, too.

My love for trees started when I was a kid.  My parents had this great maple tree out front that was perfect for climbing.  It had plenty of branches that were low enough to scramble onto, and plenty of branches in general.  I spent many, many hours of my childhood in the branches of that tree.  My sister and I used to climb up it and hold perfectly still so we could eavesdrop on the conversations of the people who were walking laps around the block.  Or, we'd go up it with some small stuffed animals and bonnets from some of our baby dolls, and we'd tie the strings of the bonnets around the branches and make swings for the stuffed animals.  We played countless games up that tree.

As I got older and my sister outgrew tree climbing, the tree became my refuge.  I loved to sit quietly in it and just feel the rustle of the leaves and the quivers of the branches in the breeze.  Its strength and beauty were soothing.

I never did outgrow climbing trees.

Saturday, my husband and I drove over to my Dad's house to do a little tree doctoring.  That sweet old maple is still there, although considerably thicker and more gnarly than it used to be.  It's doing fairly well, considering all the bark that squirrels have stripped off it over the years.  It had an old dead snag that needed to be cut down before it fell and took out a power line, and since my husband and I are more of tree-climbing years than my Dad, we volunteered for the project.  It took but a quick scramble up, some rope, and a couple of cuts with Dad's chain saw, and the old branch came down without any problem.

It was a pleasure to be back in my tree again.  It always is.  I think my husband's affection for that tree is nearly as great as my own, now.  I still climb it whenever I get the chance, and my husband being who he is, always scrambles right up after me.

Thinking about my love of trees makes me remember my experiences in the UK.  When I was in college, I had the luxury of spending 6 weeks backpacking in Ireland and Scotland during a break between terms at Oxford.

I spent the first three of those weeks in Ireland, exploring old ruins and castles, rambling through fields with irritable bulls in them, and enjoying Irish music in the pubs in the evening.

I loved Ireland, with all its majestic beauty and stone ruins, ancient history and warm friendly people.  Yet when I took the ferry from Northern Ireland and landed in southern Scotland, I found myself noticing that I somehow felt relieved.  It took me nearly 24 hours to realize it was because of trees.  There were so few trees in Ireland that, without realizing it, I had begun to feel lonely without them.

I spend lots of time in the woods, including plenty of time in a tent.  Especially at dusk, but at other times too, I am conscious of the presence of the trees - such massive beings.  How much they've seen!  Some of the oldest that I encounter have experienced many more years than I have.  I confess to talking to trees on occasion, too.

I know my best friend's father and I are not the only ones who feels so strongly about trees.  There are so many myths and legends about trees - from stories about women turning into trees, to the Ents in the Lord of the Rings series - that it's clear trees hold magic for many.

One of my all-time favorite children's books a dear friend bought me when I was in college.  It's called The Voice of the Wood, and is about a craftsman who made musical instruments.  He had a favorite tree that he loved, and when it died, he made a cello out of its wood.  The cello was magical, and eventually taught the most talented cellist in Venice humility.  The illustrations themselves are magical, and the tree a powerful presence in the story.  It's a fairly safe bet that I'll like any tale that features a tree as a major character.

As for me, I'm certain I shall both talk to and climb trees for many years to come.


swamp4me May 25, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

Beautiful. I, too, "feel" trees - can't even imagine what it is like to live where there are not trees.

I will have to see if I can find the book you mentioned. It sounds like one I would enjoy reading.

b. May 25, 2010 at 4:35 PM  

I've always felt drawn to the cello & happened across this CD that uses children's books as inspiration for music. The first song was inspired by _The Voice of the Wood_ & has always been a favorite. I find the cello in this song to be especially haunting, but in a good way.

Sneaksleep June 1, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

It took my folks about a decade too long to cut down the cedars in front of their old house, mainly because my dad didn't want to suffer through them screaming when cut. And when they finally did get cut down, it was traumatic for all of us. The love of trees definitely runs in the family.

barefootheart June 13, 2010 at 10:43 AM  

Trees are wonderful.
I haven't heard of The Voice of the Wood. I'll have to look it up. Thanks!

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