tell me tree stories

I am fascinated by trees and our relationship with them. I realise now that my own experience of the tree protest movement in the 1990s was probably one of the most formative times of my life. I am beginning a project collecting stories, testimonials, responses, poems, whatever, anything and everything from people who want to share their tree stories.  I’d like to make a book, and an aerial theatre piece. All and any contributions would be welcomed.

Earliest memories: Climbing the tree at the end of our road. Spiky branches spiralling up a rough narrow trunk like a staircase. Small body squished in amongst dense prickly pine branches. Reassuring dry scent; sticky resin on fingers. Curled up high by a bird’s nest. Sky beyond.


5 responses to “tell me tree stories

  1. Time: March, 04
    Place Epping Forest, London
    Was as home in South London feeling bonkers – needed some nature. Trees talk to me – always have, so I went to meet them. Got tube out east to Epping Forest. Walked from the tube station to what felt like the edge of London town… took my clothes off, stretched my body and hugged the first tree that invited me, for ages… heart to heart. Then ran around singing LOUDLY and did cartwheels and tried to run really fast from a run-up to tree trunks and run up the side of the tree without using my hands. I climbed some trees and hung from the branches, feeling my whole bidy stretch witht he gravity and hung on for as long as I could trying to swing my body more and more til my arms said no more. Then I found the friendliest tree and sat in it for ages. Even though it was cold and I was bare I felt really warm… then i put my clothes back on and
    felt like i was a coat-hanger or something like that and my clothes felt nice but funny. Then I walked back into London town and got on the tube. I felt yummy and like I had a delicious secret, like I had just met a lover and made love for hours and hours.
    Then I was less bonkers for a while, maybe forever…?

  2. Hi Perse,

    When I was tiny my parents and I planted a Willow branch in our garden. In New Zealand English trees grow very fast in the warmer climate and the tree grew with me. I spent so much time watering it, hugging the spreading trunk, hanging coloured ribbons in my trees arms… that it felt like we were friends. Best friends. And I would tell the Willow all my secrets.
    I had quite a hard time at school – I was ‘that strange girl’, but I would come home and feel safe and never lonely under my tree. I loved to lie under it and look at the labyrinth like curls (it was a twisted willow) dancing up into the sky. I loved the many different shades of green the layers of leaves made.
    Buy the time I was 7 that tree really had gotten huge and I took to climbing it and spending all evening in it’s branches. The limbs were still thin, and I was the only one who could get up there, everyone else being too heavy and my brother being too small. I was untouchable. Somehow with a bucket and string pulley system I managed to get a red painted wooden chair up there. Wedged between 3 main branches it was a throne I could watch the whole neighbourhood from, completely unobserved, the milkman, the scwabbling kids next door, Dad turning down a road beyond on the way home from work… but best of all the sunset, then budding stars.
    That tree was my closest confident for many years. I even had my treasure bag up there (containing a ram’s horn, some strange old coins, nice buttons and sweets).

    One summer there had been lots of holidays away and busy-ness when I wandered into the back yard to discover a giant crack splitting the top of the trunk in two. I grabbed an old nylon rope and tied to tie the tree back together, or support it at least, but over the next few weeks the split became longer and longer. The trunk of my tree was ripping in half.
    Eventually I asked my mum what we could do? Oh how to save my magic willow?
    To my dismay she had the problem totally confused. It was not about rescuing the tree but rescuing the house! Why had I not told her sooner? Did I not realize the tree, now 8 meters or so in height might collapse and crush the roof? This was impending disaster. A man with chain saw had to be called immediately!

    As you can imagine I screamed and howled, screamed and howled, and insisted we save my tree! To no avail. One day I returned from school and the butchered corpse of my dear beloved was scattered in pieces all over the back yard… those fresh beautiful leaves left to decay on the ground.
    What was worse was those severed limbs were left there all summer, until that sap hardened like congealed blood, the wood stiffened with rigor mortis to be thrown on a fire somewhere later. Every afternoon I would look sadly out the window and shed internal tears for my Willow friend, scattered in rotting pieces outside.

  3. Trees have always been a very special presense in my life from my childhood growing up in mid wales and playing alone in wild woodland by my home, marveling at the buds which birth new leaves and the knarly branches which sometimes hold secret holes or pools where water collects and I imagined fairies bathing.

    I was not what you’d call a tom boy but more of a wild child I loved climbing trees and sitting high in the braches. My dad made us a v special tree house which we played in often feeling safe and high. Still to this day I enjoy stretching my arms around trees and feeling dwarfed by there immense powerfrul structures. If only they could speak what secrets they could tell. My favorites are birch for its beautiful and magical gentleness and oak for it’s magificent stature they remind me of big old elephants and feel like protectors. I love the skin like bark of the beech and the way its leaves are born in the spring so soft and damp like new born lambs.

    I feel if more people let themselves have the time to walk along amongst trees they would find a level of peace and a sense of belonging which its seems we are all constantly trying to find.

    I still clinb trees but this time often with my lovely man. Sitting high in the tree tops feels like another world and still takes my breath away.

    have you ever seen a yew forest with 1000 yr old trees- i’m not kidding! go to kingley vale! a spiritual experience even for commited atheists.

    Plant more trees and watch them grow
    see them shed their leaves and reaching high
    making air without worry or care
    they will still be strong as we move on
    grow old and die
    a legecy for our children
    a gift for our world
    a place in which to rest and think


  4. Everyday I walk in the forest and talk to the tree people. The aboriginees say their ancestors live there. Sometimes I squint my eyes and swear I can see them lurking in the shadows, dark faces poking out, sometimes holding spears or sporting long white beards.

    Every morning I wake and say hello to Arthur and Martha. They watch me while I sleep in my bed. Martha has two branches, (if you turn upside down, she is definitely a sheila). Arthur is straight up. Both tall with smooth white skin, with distinctive dark bark at their base declaring their species as Mountain Ash. They are native to this mountain range, but not too many left now. The loggers love their wood. I growl from my car as I see the logging trucks wind through the forests. I make the drivers snarl as I overtake them with my bumper bar telling them “Save Victoria’s Forests!”.

    The rednecks can’t touch my trees though. I am their protectors. The kookaburras laugh from their branches spiralling high up 50 meters touching the sky. Lacey fungi hides at the base. Large sheets of bark drop every summer, sometimes with a big crash and a crunch.

    We hug often.

  5. I used to be an avid tree climber. I still am, really, but I’m not allowed to climb any more. When I was a kid I was a tomboy and used to climb everything in sight. Then as an adult I used to climb out onto my roof to smoke when I was drunk. I liked being up high when I was drunk, and I especially liked trees, the leap of faith from one branch to another, the redistribution of weight, the stillness up there away from people, parties, chatter. I especially liked climbing them with other people – you got stolen moments with unexpected people up the top of trees where whatever you were on the ground was stripped away. Trees always had character and it felt like they wanted to hold you and look after you. There was something sensual and safe about them. Until one night where I had had too much of everything at Glastonbury, and challenged a boy I’d just met to climb the big tree beside the stone circle. I climbed and climbed and he gave up when the branches got thinner but I didn’t, I carried on till I could see everything. And then a branch gave and I fell, and all I remember was hearing my friend on the ground screaming o my god, and the crack of the branches as I hit them on the way down. All 30 foot of the way down. Glastonbury doesn’t really have a hospital, only a kind of army tent with acid casualties, and since I was full of beer and adrenaline, I felt no pain – so it was a week later before I got an x-ray and found out I’d crushed a vertebrae in my back. I was incredibly lucky to not be more damaged – I bounced off the floor, basically. I went back to see the tree the next day, and I couldn’t look at it, its height burned me – it was huge, overpowering: I couldn’t even figure out how I started up it. I haven’t climbed since, but to be honest, I still want to every time I see a sturdy tree. I can’t remember the moment I fell, really, so it doesn’t quite feel real, and I still believe the tree will hold me.

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