The Love of Trees
Kevin Statham loves trees . . .
I can trace my love of working with wood back to my secondary school. We had a few woodworking lessons in our first year and I fell in love with the texture, the smell, the aliveness and the beautiful grain of wood. So I suppose it was a natural progression to fall in love with the tree itself.
To me trees are alive, filled with energy and a grounded wisdom. In spring time when the sap rises and in winter when the tree sleeps there is a natural beauty. There is something special about sheltering under a tree in a gentle summer shower and something wild and terrifying listening to the roar of the branches as a winter storm passes through.
Tuning into the Magic of Trees
But there is also a magic in trees if we can only tune into it. This seemed to have been realised by our ancestors. The trees took on a mythical element. Living closer to the earth our ancestors were tuned into the magical properties of the ash tree and the strange dark presence of the yew.
Trees can also be our teachers. Even if we can no longer feel the deeper magic there are other lessons for us. A tree is shaped and defined by the conditions where it starts to grow. A tree growing in a small city lot with poor soil and surrounded by tall, light stealing buildings will not be as proud and majestic as a sapling growing in rich soil in a clearing in the forest. Trees, to me, have a stoic acceptance of their conditions. We humans seem to think that, as we can move about, we have complete control over our environment and our selves and beat ourselves up when we struggle. However there are so many things beyond our control: our body, where we are born, our family and social conditioning to name a few. And maybe we can learn something from the trees and accept and grow in the conditions we can not change. As the serenity prayer says: to accept things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. Even the tree growing in the city is reaching for the thin sunlight.
Traditional myth and folklore are filled with journeys into the dark woods where the shadows lurk and strange creatures wait in hiding. I have always found this view of the woods strange as I feel safer in the company of trees than in the town or city. Even when I am alone wild camping in ancient woodland I feel protected and cared for. We can look at these stories and fables with our modern perspective as journeys into our subconscious where the fear and the creatures are our shadow side and we can use this analogy to help us turn towards ourselves and integrate even our darker hidden aspects.
And of course the Buddha Shakyamuni attained his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. He could have chosen a rocky outcrop high above the Indian plains or on the bank of the mighty Ganges but it was a tree that he chose as shelter and protection. And for hundreds of years after his passing, the Bodhi tree was used for the symbol of the Buddha Shakyamuni until the rupas we are familiar with took over. The devoted still flock to the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya to sit in the shelter of its branches and collect a few leaves to take home as a reminder of this special place.
So maybe next time you are walking through the park just pause a moment and enjoy the mysteries of the trees. Maybe stop a while in the city and admire the strength and humility of the tree reaching for the sunlight. And remember a tree always loves a hug. Just like we do.