Trees for Life
I love trees. There’s something about being amongst trees which sends me into a state of deep thought, quiet contemplation, appreciative and in awe of these giants. Trees have been here forever, they’ve been around so long, they’ve seen so much, they’ve witnessed so much of history and time and can tell so many stories and secrets. I don’t know if everyone feels like this about trees, but I think they’re truly wonderful, and I hope others do too.
We’ve recently been reflecting, re-evaluating and reconnecting, with family, with ourselves, with nature. Being outdoors, connecting with nature is good for us; good for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Trees are so good too for our creativity and imagination, for art, for writing … there’s something really special about them.
To say, “it is so nice to pop out for a breath of fresh air” couldn’t be truer, with trees providing us with the oxygen we breathe, as well as sequestering carbon dioxide from the air, and absorbing many bad pollutants in the air too. They protect the earth by helping with both erosion and drainage, and they protect us by offering shade from the hot sun and shielding us from the wind. Feeling your lungs fill with fresh air calms, energises, inspires and grounds us, helps us to focus and gives us space for mental clarity.
So let us take a moment to think about the greatness of trees. I don’t think a day goes by without my noticing trees, or even just a single tree. The beautiful shapes of so many varieties, from the great and majestic oak, to the small and delicate maples, from the poplars and pines rising high up into the heavens, to the apples, pears, cherries and walnuts, giving us not only their beauty, but also their bounty. The beautiful flowers on the Hawthorn and Apple, the yellow and pink confetti which blows from the Laburnum and Cherry, and the bright red of the berries on the Mountain Ash and the Holly.
Forests, woods, orchards and copse offer much beauty, but tree lined roads can be beautiful too, and indeed tree lined avenues (avenue actually meaning a broad road lined with trees) and in my opinion, there aren’t enough tree lined avenues, I wish there were lots more, and I include my own road in my wish and my plea for more trees to be planted.
I’ve always loved trees and been fascinated by them. I often call them by name, and sometimes their Latin name. Why their Latin names have struck a chord with me I don’t know, but spotting trees, identifying them from either their shape, or their leaves, or their branches, has always been of interest to me, never a bore.
Show me a child who doesn’t love trees. Climbing them, building dens, lighting fires, whittling wood, taking rubbings from the bark or the leaves, kicking the piles of leaves which form on the ground from all which fall in the Autumn, the crunch and rustle as you walk, welly clad, on your way through the park. The smell of trees is wonderful too. The heady scent of pine as you walk through the pine forest crunching on needles as you go; the strong aroma of the wild garlic wafting as you admire its delicate white beautiful flowers; the damp earthy smell from a wet walk through the woods or that unmistakeable pungent smell from a stinkhorn, but how wonderful it is to see the variety and array of shapes and colours of the autumnal fungi which grows amongst the fallen and decaying trees and leaves.
Trees are so tactile. I defy anyone from walking up to a tree and not wanting to touch or pat the trunk. Feeling the ridges and patterns on the bark as you walk round it, admiring it as you do, your arm now stretched and able to give it a hug. How humbling to stand with your arms on or around the trunk as you raise your head and look all the way up into the canopy, looking at the bright light glistening through the leaves, looking and wondering and realising how great mother nature is, how big is our world, how vast is our universe, and how small we are, and how little a part we play in the grand scheme of everything. Close your eyes, and listen to the whispers which come as the wind gently blows through the branches, and saying even more to us as the leaves rustle in the wind.
We benefit so much from trees, but so too do all those who call them home. The birds, insects, and other animals who live high in the canopy, or tucked away in a hollow in the trunk, all feasting on the smorgasbord of food, found on or in the trees.
The vast array of seasonal colours I will never tire of seeing. The fresh green of the leaves as they start to appear in Spring, the deeper green as they mature over Summer and the yellows, oranges and reds which Autumn brings. The beautiful shapes of the structure and silhouettes, reflected in the root system underground, a tangled mass holding the tree tightly and firmly so it is able to brave the strongest of winds, incessant rain, and vicious storms which roar and batter all which they meet on their path. The trees in full leaf in summer looking just as beautiful as the bare skeleton of the tree in winter.
No wonder the beauty of trees has inspired so many artists to draw them, paint them, photograph them, write about them, and work with for furniture, building and sculpture. Even the wood which drifts onto the shore, carried by the tide from someplace, found and collected by the person out on their early morning walk or scavenger hunt, and taken home with them carrying its story on some more.
Trees live on generation after generation. We have furniture which is still as good as it ever was, and in some cases still in use. Some well looked after furniture adorning many a stately home or mansion, dating back to Tudor times, or even further. Even wood which is burned still goes on to do more, charcoal being a fine example of such. How lovely, and yet rare it is to still see these old charcoal burners, creating the fuel which is even more efficient at giving heat, than it is when the wood is burned for the first time. And how lovely is the artwork created with this wonderful and dirty medium.
Old hawthorn or blackthorn trees given new life as they’re laid down. A dying art offering new life to the trees as they sprout new leaves to form a beautiful hedge, offering a wonderful natural boundary, much needed shelter for crops, and a fabulous shelter and home for wildlife.
We remember the trees which are talked of in stories and in poems. Famous trees from the Magic Faraway Tree, to the Whomping Willow and of course all of the trees which make up the Hundred Acre Wood. Myth, legend and folklore surround so many trees, none more so than the Yew. Symbolising protection, immortality and everlasting life you will find a Yew tree in pretty much every church yard, hundreds of years old. They should never be cut down, and indeed appear to weep blood when they are cut; they should be nurtured and protected, even if appearing dead, as they still have the ability to rejuvenate thousands of years later. How many stories could this tree tell, even being sacred to the Druids, symbolising both death and resurrection.
Trees will be around for generations to come, the seeds of these quiet, gentle, giants drop to the floor, or get carried away on the breeze, or swept away even further in a gust; or maybe carried somewhere by the birds who pinch the fruit, or the squirrels who bury their edible treasure; and the new saplings start to grow, carrying the genes of their ancestors within them, and so the tree lives on forever.
And goodness how well do they grow? Those densely packed forests with trees so tall that they go rocketing high up into the sky, competing with each other as to which will be the first to reach the light. Thousands of these trees covering the hillsides, offering a dark green hue to the landscape, only to be replaced by the chaos and untidiness left as the loggers chop them down and sell them on to timber and paper mills.
There are those trees which are a bit of a nuisance of course, and there was a time when Leylandii featured in the newspapers far too often, having been planted to offer some garden coverage at the outset, but then causing no end of neighbourhood arguments as they reach gargantuan heights and suddenly trespass on the light of the neighbour next door. Trees which are too big for the gardens they’re in can also be a nuisance. Large Sycamores or Horse Chestnuts in the gardens of small terraces are likely to cause no end of problems with regards light and indeed upsetting the foundations, and gardens which have trees more suited to stately homes with large estates will also generally be the cause of much upset.
Justin knew how much I loved trees, which is why he chose to take me to walk amongst trees when he proposed to me; an avenue of Lime trees bearing witness to my saying yes. Edward too loved trees, he loved everything about them, and I love looking at, and sitting beside the majestic Oak which rises high above his grave.
The Edward Dee Fund has tried to link to trees as much as it can in its projects raising awareness of meningitis and sepsis (the diseases which so cruelly took the life of Edward). The charity has sponsored a beautiful tall tree in Lowther Gardens; it has featured a tree in some commissioned artwork, which can be found in St Anne’s on Back Street West. The tree depicts the work of the charity, having its roots firmly in the community, educating, engaging and inspiring others, whilst branching out to raise awareness, with its leaves illustrating signs and symptoms which we should be aware of. There are other pieces of art in this collection, all which link to Edward and the work of the charity, and if you haven’t taken time to stroll by and look at this, please do, please take pictures, and please tell others to help raise awareness further.
Every year, around December, little handmade trees are distributed around communities, helping to raise awareness for The Edward Dee Fund. The #TreesforEdward are either knitted, or crocheted, or sewn and are made and given with love and left for people to find. This project, coordinated by Linda of Bonney Fabrics, St Anne’s, was borne from Edward’s love of trees, and Christmas trees seemed an obvious choice and rather poignant as Edward died in December, and the last thing we did together as a family was to decorate the family Christmas tree. Those who have been lucky enough to find one of these trees, have treasured this gift, and will hang this for many years to come, thus raising awareness time and again. The project involves a lot of hard work, time and goodwill from so many, from many communities, and I’m enormously grateful to all who help, and indeed would welcome others who would like to help in future years, so that we can get a large forest of #TreesforEdward to distribute to many more people.
And so by raising awareness of the diseases, and the work of the charity, we also remember the boy who inspired all that is being done in his name, and we sow the seeds so his name lives on too. Edward Dee 15th April 2006-5th December 2016.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Ancient Greek Proverb
Article by: Elizabeth Dee