The truth about trees

gloomy beech

Some trees are agoraphobic — it’s true. With every branch and twig they strain to block out the sky, and they never leave the forest. Winter is painful for them, but they escape as best they can by drawing down their sap and hiding underground. On warm days in late winter and early spring, when their sap starts to flow again, they are groggy as sleepwalkers that have just fallen down the stairs.

black birch

Waking up isn’t always a pleasant thing, especially if you are approaching middle age and your joints creak, your skin is suddenly no longer elastic, and any weird lump or lesion could be the beginning of something dire.

black birch with polyphores

Better to stay asleep and dream of sprouting a thousand parasols or hiding like a bird beneath its feathers. Better just to stand by the stream and listen to the water, which has mastered the art of running from the sky.

19 Replies to “The truth about trees”

  1. Dave, thank you. This was a wonderful thing to read tonight.
    Outside it is dark now (nearly midnight) and we have thunder. Torrential rain on snow.
    I looked out at our oak tree and wondered about trees, and then stumbled upon this writing of yours.
    Wonderful conceptual imagery, and I appreciate it.

  2. I love this one, too, Dave. Thank you. I live on a bluff, my windows are about a third of the way up in a small Sitka spruce grove, one of the most southern ones on the CA coast. The one I call the Mother Tree is so huge, so old, I fret about her constantly…but she keeps on keeping on. Humingbirds, chickadees and nuthatches love her lower branches, easy access to my feeders. Twenty-three wild turkeys roost in her (last count) and ravens tock daily from the top of her. I write about her often, try to capture her in many ways.

    Thanks again,

  3. That’s a tender thing you’ve written, and I enjoyed it and empathised on all levels, especially the bit about skin. A good antidote to having gone out last night to see ‘Black Swan’, which was accomplished and interesting in so many ways, though speaking as one who gets plagued with intermittent psoriasis, the scenes of itching and bleeding skin left me feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. (I grazed my cheek in my sleep two nights ago, and the skin there is so thin that now I’m as scabbed and bruised as if my face had hit the ground hard!) As the late Bette Davies once defiantly proclaimed in a slogan on a needlepoint cushion, “Old Age Ain’t No Place For Sissies!”

    1. Yes, she definitely had a point — I’m beginning to see that. I’m glad this post struck a chord with you. Funny how sometimes these unplanned, last-minute posts (I was rushing to meet the Festival of the Trees deadline) turn out the best. Fortunately, I was walking up the hollow yesterday at just the right time to capture that late-afternoon light.

  4. The agoraphobic Beech tree’s gloomy and alarmed expression is a delicious serendipity, well spotted, but the rest of the piece lives up to it – the perfectly satisfying fusion of creative writer and naturalist. Wonderful.

  5. Dave, I woke up this morning to freezing rain, and the trees here are covered with ice and look completely miserable. Your post is a much needed antidote, and I really love it. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome! Yeah, I just heard about the freezing rain from someone else to the northeast of us, too. It’s in the mid-50s here now — hope you’ns get some of that warmth, too.

  6. A delightful take, Dave. I have so often heard them groan in the cold breezes. The trees and I are feeling it today as the sun warms our winter bones, stiff from a long sleep.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. It felt like the first day of spring here: cool, but sunny, with migrating geese going over at sundown and into the night. And all I could think was, “Damn! It must be cold up there!”

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