The wisdom of trees

Trees have always been a special adjunct to my inspiration. Sitting beneath an oak’s branches, a willow, a poplar, or the sparkling silver of long-leafed pines, I find writing a special joy. The gentle dappled sun making its way through the entwined tree tops, the fresh, clean smell of the leaves and pine needles covering the earth at their base all promote a feeling of well-being that’s healing and soothing and my writing muse. img_20161018_123950

From my debut novel, Nardi Point:

Leyla Jo stood dead still at the edge of an empty rectangle set in the middle of the woods. Their first unobstructed look at the freshly cut, denuded building site. Her distress, obvious. “The trees, the squirrels, turtles, rabbits, nesting birds, tree frogs, where do they go when their universe changes forever? Do the trees, old ones, medium-aged ones, saplings growing from pine cones, or the sweet gum sticky pods dropped by trees beside them, consider themselves a family? Are they sentient is what I guess I’m trying to say?”

I wonder if they know that they’ll be cut down when giant bulldozers or little men with super-sized chain saws arrive. Do they have alerts to transmit distress to other trees? Are they concerned about saplings? They have no way of knowing the extent of the damage, or which of them will remain, or which of them will die as the land is cleared.

I remember the day spent in a Tuscan hillside garden as my husband rested in the  Il Patriarca country villa hotel, slowly recovered from an unfortunate episode of vertigo. A garden well over 200 years old shaded where I sat that tranquil morning. Two giant pines most likely placed there in the garden from its beginning, captured my attention. I remember it being so quiet there on the gentle slope overlooking a vast spread of a vineyard and the sun gloriously shining through a canopy of leaves.

Because I’m interested in exploring, healing, and learning many things, I focused on the beautiful pines and asked them to tell me the story of this lovely historic property. Yes, this may sound woo, but after listening closely I heard a story about the original owners of the villa and their two daughters. One became pregnant as a young teen and shortly thereafter, died in an accident before she could give birth. It was a sad story. When we checked out, I asked about the origins of the villa. The lovely, poised woman at the desk began telling me about a prominent family who had owned the villa. “Did they have children?” I asked. “Yes, two daughters. One died young.” I hesitated. “Is it possible she may have been pregnant?” “Yes,” she answered. “That is what we know of the villa’s history. The family left the villa soon after. It was said the young man secretly met with the daughter in the garden.”

This story resounds with me especially today, as new neighbors of barely a year, have taken it upon themselves to remove every tree in the back of their home, almost an acre’s worth. A swathe of mixed forest trees that have stood for at least 80 years are gone on their callous whim and without any understanding and appreciation for the land that’s home to rabbits, fox, turtles, birds, deer, squirrels. Trees that absorb excess rainfall, trees that provide shade and a micro-climate and that form a community with the trees on my land. Barely there a year and the first action they take is to mass cut these trees. There’s no talking with those who don’t get it. Who haven’t developed an understanding about the ways of a natural environment, but who indulgently provide children under 10 years old with monstrous, unlicensed ATVs to roar about the small roads for fun. Ahhh, what can I say?

If there was any depth to their understanding, I’d recommend Max Adams’s The Wisdom of Trees. Or The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. But regretfully, they are deaf to explanations and so small in their viewpoint of “my property.” And the trees, they are all felled now….

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