The bluebells are in flower –hurrah!

I have been absorbed in an interesting exchange with one of my authors. She’s retelling a traditional story from Korea, about an encounter between a tiger and a merchant. The merchant rescues the tiger from a pit, and the tiger then tries to eat him. The merchant manages to avert death in the tiger’s jaws by insisting that one good deed should follow another. The two of them decide they need an adjudicator – in fact, they end up agreeing that they need three.

This is where talking to trees comes in. The author had three animals as adjudicators in her first draft. The story didn’t quite work for me with the three she had chosen, so I asked her to change the second animal. She came back saying that actually, the original story had a pine tree as the second adjudicator, not an animal at all – what did I think about having a talking tree

The view from my office window

Now, my world view definitely includes trees that talk, and I share Carol Ann Duffy’s beautifully expressed suggestion that the songs of birds are ‘the uttered thoughts of trees’.  My world view also includes people (myself, for a start) who listen to what trees have to say, and who have dialogues with plants of other kinds as well.  One of my closest childhood companions was a  cherry tree in my parents’ garden. I made a special sitting place for myself about half-way up its branches, wearing the bark shiny with my visits. This tree regularly consoled me when I got into trouble.  Nowadays, one of the best aspects of springtime for me is the opportunity it presents to talk to the plants I am growing from seed. I spend many happy hours pottering about in my greenhouse, watering seedlings and coaxing them into life with encouraging hums and murmurs.

At this time of year, in this part of the world, it is almost impossible not to pay attention to trees and to listen to what they have to say.  In the orchards around my home, the apple trees are dressed in bridal blossom;  the elderly chestnuts in Hog Wood stretch out branches that are heavy with sticky buds; outside my office window, the copper beech tree is bursting into leaf.  I like nothing better than to walk through my local woods in the quiet of the early morning, especially now that they are bright with bluebells, each with its own story to share. Last weekend, I was vividly reminded of our interdependence with trees by a headline about the rainforests. It went something like this: ‘20% of the planet is rainforest: that’s one breath in every five.’ I don’t know how many breaths the good trees of Somerset contribute, but as I see it, the more we surround ourselves with trees and appreciate our reliance on them, the better. Meanwhile, the talking pine tree has been reinstated in the story about the tiger and the merchant.

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