We hear an awful lot about trees these days. How the government plans to plant a billion trees and save the planet and so on. (After cutting down a 250 year old pear tree to rush its elite train line through.) I cannot help but feel that included in these will be those trees planted by the nation’s children in honour of her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Is this the first such jubilee in our history I ask myself? Riding on the back of popular sentiment is never a good guide to policy making. As for the delivery of such a thing, we have yet to wait and see. Meanwhile Brazil, possessing one of the largest forests in the world, daily goes on stripping the trees away to feed unhealthy stock in unhealthy conditions to provide unhealthy populations with what advertising assures them they want to be happy. Ah sad world.

But I wanted to share a little of the insights I have garnered over the years into the nature of trees. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the style of Peter Wohlleben, nor any sort of innovator as Dr Miyawaki. However the work of both of these esteemed gentlemen very much supports my own observations. There is nothing more heart-rending to my eyes than a hillside stripped of trees in one fell operation of forestry clearing. I think of all the lives that have shared in the life of this forest and have grown from infancy to adulthood only to be faced with a calamitous scene after the humans have passed. In the words of my friend Ali Gökmen ‘I heard the mouses crying’.

Trees are friendly. You have only to walk in their shelter to feel the closeness and harmony they share with the world around them. They are generous, giving of their fruit and leaves to other lives that live on them and in them. They offer their shelter from wind and rain and sun. How much we have to learn from trees.

They have a social conscience. Not only do they share their fruits with others they also shelter each other from the wind. They stand close together, not afraid of closeness, but finding in it warmth and protection. How different from the human race.

And what do the foresters of today do? They plant them at an optimum distance, neatly squared away to allow maximum growth in minimum time to produce timber that melts in no time. Kiln dried, the timbers become desiccated and turn to powder. Such wisdom this ape possesses.

For deeper insights into trees read the books of Peter Wohlleben, particularly ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’. Read it with an opened mind, not the cynical, critical, jeering mind of western academic thinking, but with the heart with which it is written by one who has spent his life among these ancient life forms. Ask yourself, who have you helped today? How many have you given shelter to? How many have you nourished? Then try to live your life more like a tree.

A tree stands solid in one place, but reaches out its consciousness to the universe around it. To the little lives that hurry past, or nestle in the crooks of its branches and roots. To the birds that roost and sing praises to the day each morning as the sun breaks the horizon and pales the sky. A tree reaches its awareness far up into the sky and touches the stars in their distant posts singing in the praise of the Creator as every one does. Then listen to see if you can hear the whispering wisdom the trees hold in store for you on this day, the first of all your days to come.

Author: Keith Armstrong

Dance teacher, writer, film-maker, educationalist, enthusiast.