“Like most people, I have a particular tree that I remember from my childhood”
– Hope Jahren
I was intrigued when I read this. I know I have a number of particular trees from my childhood that I remember deeply and which were very important to me. But then I had a wood in my garden growing up. Do children without this access have trees they remember later in life? I suspect my school friends remembered my tree house, the trees they climbed when they came to play and running through the woods at night on bonfire night. But what about other children? I’d love to know, partly because it fascinates me, but also because, if we never get to know a tree deeply enough to remember them, how can we speak for them?
To speak for trees may sound like a job purely for a treehugger. For an ardent activist. And yes, it might be, but it’s also a job for me, and a job for you. It’s a job for all of us. For politicians, voters, businesses, scientists, forestry people, walkers… We all need to speak for the trees, for what are we without them?
But we cannot speak for a tree if we don’t know what it is telling us. We need to know our trees, deeply and personally. We need to read it’s bark like a memoir, it’s leaves like flags. We must hear from the plants and the animals and the birds that live in and near the tree, for without them, the voice is incomplete.
It is easy to assume a tree can stand it’s own ground. They are personlike. They are sentinel, on guard. They are in many ways, like man with arms and legs and a head and a trunk.
It is easy to assume that everything in a trees life is fine, that they are happy and satisfied. Their constant nature, the sense that they protect us can trick us into thinking they are ok. But to glance at a tree is not to know the tree. To glance at a tree is not to respect the tree. To glance at a tree is not to cherish the tree.
“We do not realise that the fields and the trees have fought and still fight for their respective places on this map – which, by natural right, belong entirely to the trees”
– Thomas Murton?
Unless we get to know our trees, we cannot speak for them. These magnificent, seemingly unassuming, beings have much to offer us, if we just approach, and listen.
“Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence. And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives; or even, more specifically, some secret vital to our real, our lasting and spiritual existence.”
– Kim Taplin
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
– Hermann Hesse
Who should speak for trees? All of us. And yet no one. No one but she who has taken the time to listen.