Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Well, to be more precise, tell me a personal story, a true story, about a particular tree or trees that have played an important role in your life, or that hold strong memories for you. Or tell me a story that features a tree as a significant element. Or tell me a myth that’s centred around tree or trees.
Did you know that trees talk to one another? Or that scientists now believe that planting enough more trees could remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and combat climate change?
So, let us start a global conversation. Let us talk to each other, just the way that trees talk to one another, to share experiences, just as they do. Only let it be trees that the conversation is about.
Let me explain.
The latest muse in my art is an ancient olive tree that I met just a couple of months ago, as some of my readers are well aware of. I was enraptured by the encounter, and excited to be feeling inspired again. I started recording my early thoughts and the initial stages of the work in earlier Blogs, https://www.marylynnestadler.com/blog/layers-of-time and https://www.marylynnestadler.com/blog/the-textures-of-time-oilpainteratlarge,
Then the usual began to happen. As I started delving into the subject it just became ever more fascinating and complex, and now there are a million thoughts swirling around in my head about how to explore all the many facets of trees.
First I started remembering other trees in my life, and was surprised at how many particular trees I could remember. I recalled the first tree that I hugged, at a time when my whole being was being shaken by storms of de-stabilising emotions. It was during one of my many solitary walks on the Downs and in the woods close to my then-home in Shaftesbury in Dorset. That day, as I neared the kissing gate on the path that I was on in the bluebell woods on Duncliffe Hill, an irresistible urge overcame me to put my arms around one particular tree that stood to the right of the path.
I hugged her for a very long time, hanging on to her for dear life. Imperceptibly, but slowly and surely, a sense of stillness spread through my restless spirit and troubled body, the solace that a mother’s hug would have brought, the kind of comfort that restores strength and courage.
Trees have fascinated me since I can remember. Among my strongest memories from childhood are the trees that were a part of it - the four mango trees in our garden in Africa that provided dense shade and succulent fruits. The great baobab that stood sentinel at the end of it; the whisper of the wind rustling through pine trees that formed the boundary between our plot and our neighbour’s. Memories so deeply etched that, in my mind, they almost define my childhood.
Years later there was the big fig tree in Amman, in Jordan, that fruited so abundantly year after year. Many a time we would arrive home to find some local person perched atop the massive zinc water tank that sat under it, gathering an armful of precious cuttings. Its reputation was well known, spread far and wide.
In Cyprus the fig tree in my garden provided me with freshly plucked fruit for my breakfast, and the pomegranate trees fruited so abundantly that I was always somewhat puzzled at how expensive it was to buy the fruit in the shops. There were also the olive trees, and the lemon tree, and the pecan tree, not to mention the grove of almond trees that shimmered with blossom every spring in the field below my garden.
And what of the carob trees that dotted the landscape wherever you cared to look - on hill brows and flat expanses of bare earth laid out in the valleys. I once came across one that seemed to emanate life force so powerfully that it was almost tangible. Even now, years later, that experience is vivid in my mind’s eye.
It has been surprising how many particular trees I can remember, and intriguing to recall why they have made an impression on me. It’s almost as though they are markers on the timeline of my life. That in itself is interesting.
When I asked my daughters if there were any significant trees in their lives, it was surprising to hear about several that were well embedded in their memories. Coincidentally, at the same time I also received an email from a recently widowed friend, telling me that they had planted a memorial tree for her husband, in a beautiful spot in the English countryside, for his ashes to be scattered under,
This is where you come in.
As part of my work on this tree project I would like to collect people’s stories about their relationship with trees.
The thing is this - it’s one thing to talk in big, general terms, about huge global issues but, at the end of the day, change only happens when a thing becomes personal.
So this is a call to my readers and friends: please tell me about a tree or trees in your life. I’m looking for memories, stories, poems, songs, sketches, and photos of your tree/trees, to create a network of communication across the globe on a theme that concerns us all and has the potential of uniting us all through shared experience. Please let your friends and relatives also know that I am on the hunt for their tree stories.
You can send them to my tree email, email@example.com
My plan is to gather up tree experiences to weave into a body of work that I will be exhibiting in September in Ibiza, and then also share digitally with everyone who has participated so that we, as people, can connect with one another through our stories, just as the trees do, through their roots.
I’m hoping that, when we focus on the personal significance that trees have for us, we will all begin to have more respect for the trees of our planet and become more mindful about planting trees.
The planet’s forests have always been our protectors and defenders. Now, it seems, that they are capable also of being our saviours.
None of this was what was on my mind when I fell in love with my ancient olive. It has just evolved that way.
As have the fruits of my recent researches into trees online.
I chanced upon an online writer, Maria Popova, whose fascinating writings on her Blog BrainPickings.org introduced me to the writings of some great people, on the topic of trees: You can read for yourself, here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/06/11/the-spiritual-uses-of-fruit-trees-ralph-austen/ and here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/07/17/the-book-of-trees-manuel-lima/
Not to mention the beautiful book, The Night Life of Trees by Tara books, that you can preview here: https://tarabooks.com/shop/the-night-life-of-trees/
Ah, the wisdom of trees!
Remember, the email address for your tree stories is firstname.lastname@example.org