I feel like I may have already written this but I can’t find it so I’m going to assume I just pondered it… Trees are important. We carve names and lives into them. We shelter under them and clamber into them.
The first important tree in my life was the tree which introduced me to tree climbing. It was near our driveway and you could see the quiet lane from it. I had my spot and my younger sister had hers, slightly lower down. One day I was in the tree with an adventurous friend who went a bit higher than she should have and got stuck… We were maybe 4 years old so the heady heights were thankfully fairly close to the ground. Still friends with her when we were 18, we both remembered that tree.
Later on, I had a reading tree. You had to wrap your legs over a shoulder height branch and swing yourself into it, book and all. But once up, your back would lean against the Birch trunk and your legs would lay out ahead of you on the solid branches. You were slightly hidden in the leaves and so it doubled as a refuge. I never showed been my sister how to climb that tree.
The next important tree in my life was really more of a bench. The trees sheltered the wooden seat round the corner from the university counselling service. I would sit there, on a rarely used route, opposite a large metal Buddha in memory of someone or other. I would sit in my just off the beaten path sanctuary and summon up the courage to enter the single story red brick building with the sign that seemed so huge to me that I couldn’t comprehend anyone not noticing I was going for counselling. There was nothing else through that exposed door, there was no excuse if anyone saw me. At that time I needed excuses. I wasn’t ready to go public with my mental health. I was barely ready to tell the counsellor. Then, after, as I waited for my next lecture, I would return to my bench and my trees and the Buddha who was not mine and I would wait.
It was a while after that before I had another favourite tree. And then it was more a place rather than the tree. There were years when I didn’t look closely at trees, I just saw them as part of an environment. I lived in one house for a few years then moved to the next street for a few more. At the end of those roads, were some trees which dropped delicate pink blossom all over the pavement in the spring. In the summer, I would sit on the grass next to them and often, a small group of people would turn up and tie a tightrope between two of them. They were fairly good at walking the line and I would steal glances at them through my sunglasses. I didn’t know them but I felt a bond, we were sharing a space, we were sharing a summers day.
My current favourite tree is one I am documenting throughout the year. It is a youngish red oak in my favourite park and it seems to be used as a meeting point for people. The last time I saw it, mums in running clothes with pushchairs were stretching and greeting each other by it. It is a tough tree. It holds it’s leaves well past autumn. It stands slightly alone, no tree within branch touching range. But I like to think that the other trees are close enough to hear its whispers on the breeze.
Oh, and I nearly forgot the tree from my primary school. It was just out of sight from the teachers and dinner ladies. I don’t remember how we got started but we were digging our way to my friend’s back garden. It backed onto the school. I’m not sure why we were trying to tunnel our way out of school. Our school was a little bubble, a snowglobe of safe space. But we spent lunch time after lunch time digging with our little twigs to get to the other side of the fence. Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t chose a tree that was nearer her garden…
Do you have a favourite tree or trees which are important to you? Tell me about them!