I owe my livelihood to trees. No, I am not a logger or a builder. But I do log experiences and build with words. And how did trees lead me to words?
I fell in love with trees as a child and was lucky enough to be surrounded by them. In Montreal, looking out from my grandmother’s windows, I could see maples, oaks, 200-feet pines, weeping willows, lilacs. Her house backed into a golf course; she and my grandfather were Scottish and avid golfers. After school, my friends and I snuck onto the course and climbed trees – crab apples, trying to stay hidden from golfers, oaks with giant arms over a pond, scrambling down fast enough to outrun those sent to chase us away. We hiked through neighborhood forests, scaring ourselves with tales of hobos, building forts and letting the trees embrace us.
It wasn’t just the trees I loved, but the way the sunlight danced through and around their branches and leaves. Even in winter, when the trees resembled scarecrows, there was something magical about the silvery light and shadows. Trees can be hulking, gnarly and scary, embracing and protective, or graceful and lacy dancing in the wind.
I felt compelled to capture this and so I tried drawing. The winter trees I could recreate somewhat – one bony hand after another. But trees in spring, summer, fall – flat. My drawings were average and the magic was not there. I especially saw this when one of my girlfriends started to draw, and it soon became evident to everyone that she was a gifted artist. Her trees were alive and mine were not.
I then tried photographing trees, but my tiny box of a Brownie camera had limitations. Today I can do more with my iPhone camera.
So I started writing about trees. I had an ability with words. I found myself wanting to describe everything, always searching for words and new ways to combine them. When my 5th grade teacher asked us to describe a season, I was off and running. I proudly brought in my essay-poem. She didn’t believe that I wrote it. My normally reserved mother was incensed and charged into our classroom. Of course she wrote it!
There’s a lovely picture one can form
From floating leaves,
The scarlet red mingles with orange and gold,
As they fall like graceful doves
From the naked trees.
— Linda, Age 10