Trees as Story-Hoarders

Someday, I would like to live near a weeping willow.

“You’re mad! It’ll wreck your water pipes!” My beloved friend S., with her bucketful of sobering practicality.  “Their roots are so long, they’ll reach out from the bottom of your garden all the way to the foundations of your house and break the pipes to get to the water.”

I slowly lower my raised back.  I did not say I wanted to own a weeping willow but that I wanted to live near one.  The very concept of owning a tree is nonsensical, of course.  You cannot own something which has stood observing this world long before you were born, and which will keep on observing it long after your visit here is over.  I just want to be close enough to a weeping willow, to go and spend time with it as often as I please.  Perhaps somewhere by a river, since we both enjoy the healing, gentle flow of its waters.

There is something of the story-hoarder about trees.  There they stand, in silence, like an unnoticed piece of stage scenery, while generations of humans play out their dramas.  Watching, observing, absorbing, storing it all.  Unlike humans, they are not shapeshifting, ever-moving troubadours, sowing their tales the width and breadth of the earth.  Rather, their stillness becomes the repository of stories, since trees are the bridges that connect two worlds.  Their roots plunge deep into the darkness of the earth core, while their branches reach out into the golden whiteness of the light.  And they are willing to whisper a story or two into an ear they deem attuned enough to hear.  You must ask, though, or they will just stand there, the seal of silence over their secrets.

Someday, I would like to live near a weeping willow.  Something about her ensnares my imagination.  Her world weariness, the grace of her springy branches swaying in the wind, her gentle caress on the surface of the river, the playful slap she gives your face if your punt gets tangled up in her mane.  Cambridge weeping willows’ breathy voices tell you of bygone times when Magic – not the Varsity – ruled the Fens, and the River Cam giggled on Midsummer’s Night.  Long, long ago, before Reason silenced Knowledge.

Again, in Cambridge, I remember a copper beech that glowed, ablaze, in the evening sunlight, in the Corpus Christi College owned grounds of Leckhampton House.  She stands between the squat concrete blocks of the George Thomson Building and a sculpture by Henry Moore.  On many a summer’s night, I would lie on the lawn, on my back, and stare up at the multicoloured stars until that moment of elation when I felt the world was upside down, and I was falling into the sky.  On my way back, when I caught sight of the surreal black form of the Henry Moore, anguish would pounce on me.  Then my eyes would search for the living silhouette of the copper beech, and be reassured.  Her husky, deep voice reminded me that she stood sentinel over my safety.  And I knew that the faceless concrete building and the discordant sculpture were illusions, but that the copper beech was real.

In London, at the start of this Millennium, I befriended a cedar of Lebanon in Bishops Park.  I had just moved to Fulham, and had gone to explore the local park.  Within minutes, angry, lead-grey clouds crowded over the blue sky, and rain came pounding down on me.  I saw the cedar of Lebanon, and ran to shelter beneath his evergreen canopy.  I leaned against his trunk, and waited for the rain to stop, while listening to his rich, mellifluous voice, and gossip about the bishops of London.

I was heartbroken when, soon afterwards, they axed off the arms of the cedar of Lebanon, and carved his smooth trunk into a wood sculpture representing two bishops.  I know not, nor care, who the bishops are or were.  To me, they have not only butchered the cedar, but humiliated him.

My current home stands by a towering oak.  Now that the foliage is densely green, I feel as though I am living in a tree house.  The leaves rustle in the wind, like a thousand tiny cymbals.  They glisten and flutter in the sunlight.  Squirrels perform acrobatic turns on the branches, then run and hide in the hollow.  A blackbird raised her brood on it, and regularly chased away a coveting magpie.  A glossy ivy clings to the body and arms of the oak, in what looks like a steadfast, faithful embrace.  There is something of the sorcerer about this oak, of a wise old man, like Merlin.  I have not heard his voice, yet.  Quietly but undeniably powerful, he watches me in silence.  I do not think he has made up his mind about me, yet.  I hope that, when he eventually does, he will deem my ear to be sharp and attuned enough to whisper a few tales to me.  Perhaps, one night, when the wind is hushed, and the moon is bathing his leaves in silver.

Meanwhile, I am nurturing two twin saplings.  A few months ago, during a time of frustration and hopelessness, I buried a few lemon pips into a pot of soil.  Hopes against a bleak, bleak winter.  They sprouted.  Some, I gave away.  The two growing in pots on my work table, I decided to keep.  Green, glossy young things, straight as an arrow, that have great plans of becoming  lemon trees.  I want to help them get there.

Scribe Doll

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16 Responses to Trees as Story-Hoarders

  1. I know how you feel about trees. For me, it started out as apple trees. On the land we had when I was a girl, we had lots of apple trees. Some of them I just liked to climb, but one had two long, horizontal branches sticking straight out side by side from one side which my brother and I used to pretend were horses’s backs. They were about that high off the ground, and we “rode” them and caught bad men. I used to dream about that tree at night, and dream that I entered it as a very small person at the bottom front, and then went into magical rooms on the inside through all the branches and leaves. It was like a castle on the inside with so many rooms full of mystery and treasure. Yea for the trees! Long may they help preserve our atmosphere!

  2. hopesquires says:

    I love weeping wilows! There’s one near my house (but in a stranger’s yard — so I dare not visit it), but I do enjoy passing it on daily walks. A fig tree in my backyard served as a playmate when I was little, and a patch of bamboo (now long gone) was my secret hiding place. I am sorry to hear about the tree carved up into bishops. Maybe the tree was dying, and they tried to preserve some of it that way?

    • scribedoll says:

      I don’t know why they carved up the cedar. I just get a twinge of sadness and a gnawing sense of unfairness whenever I walk past it, even after all these years.

      Your tree stories are lovely. Thank you for sharing them.

      • hopesquires says:

        I understand. A neighbor recently lost a beautiful maple tree (it died, and then the wind knocked it down). I’ll be sad about its loss for some time, but for you, there’s a reminder every time you walk by the sculpted tree of the natural beauty that used to be there, now replaced by something carved by humans.

        I’m glad you enjoyed my tree stories. 🙂

  3. excelente, beautiful….sauce lloron, en mi infancia habia robles, sauces llorones, limoneros. Me has hecho recordar aquellos hermosos tiempos, saludos carolina

  4. Reblogueó esto en Mujeres hombres y paisajes en el sexo y las palabrasy comentado:
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  5. Anna says:

    The apartment house I live in has been my home since I was 7 years old. I have witnessed a lot of changes that have been going on here. Once a yard in front of the house where we children used to play (and where much much later I used to sit watching my little daughter playing in the sandpit) gradually turned into a grass-covered lawn; more and more cars parking near the house; benches where the residents of the two neighbouring dwelling-houses would comfortably sit in the evenings talking and laughing, and so on and so forth….. And the trees! I have just cast a glance at the window of my room and there they are: big, tall, standing sentinel as they have been doing so all my life. But I remember another episode connected with a tree. There was a beautiful chestnut tree close to the house. Unfortunately it grew too close to the house and interfered with somebody’s view. And it was chopped down. I remember my daughter crying at the sight of the tree being taken down. It was a real tragedy for an 11-year girl. And I also remember a huge wide-branching tree (actually, I don’t know what it was) near the house. Under its branches we used to play “home” in my childhood. I would call on a friend and say, “Let’s go to the Tree”. And we arranged “rooms”, “flats”, visited each other and spent the whole day being “at home”. The Tree does not exist any more………..

    • scribedoll says:

      Dear Anna,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing your tree story. Interesting how many people have a memorable tree experience – heartwarming.
      Всево доброво,
      Катя

  6. A long time ago we moved into a bungalow, which we had viewed before the leaves came out. There was a magical moment when we moved in and looked out through the kitchen window. The young trees in the garden included a weeping willow, a copper beech, a flowering cherry and later on we planted an acorn, which grew! I have always loved trees. There was a beautiful cedar of Lebanon on the grounds of a school I went to. Sue

  7. Ah…trees are such interesting people. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who talks/listens to them. Lovely piece!

  8. Pingback: A Tree with a Name Beginning with S | Scribe Doll's Musings

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