See the forest for the trees
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
April 2, 2022
In the “land of four seasons,” as the sign driving into Tehachapi once hailed, it is hard waiting to plant our vegetable and flower gardens when we can drive less than half an hour west or south and find gardens happily enjoying an early spring. But, if you have lived in Tehachapi for a full season or two, you will have learned that planting early, when we have a series of spring-like days, can be dangerous for your gardens and dash your hopes for early produce and blooms.
Tehachapi gardeners have had to start over more than once after experiencing a late snow storm and night time freezing temperatures from May into June. We are tempted by a moderately warm day. And we are ever optimistic, aren’t we? Which makes me think of the trees I see out my window.
My view looks over a park, where the trees are numerous. (Many shed their leaves in the fall, and I believe they all blow over to gather at my front door!) What is unique about trees, is they can be planted bare root in the winter and early spring safely. Along with roses, berries and bushes like lilacs, there is a large variety of bare root trees that can be found, ordered and purchased at local nurseries. And after they are safely in the ground, we can sit inside wrapped up in a blanket sipping a nice cup of tea, while making plans, writing lists and ordering specialty seeds and plants. We can draw visions of our gardens mapped out on paper, having gotten at least a bit of dirt under our fingernails first!
I know that some people talk to trees. Even hug them. But have you ever stood in a forest and let them talk to you? Don’t expect them to talk in English and pick up roots to walk around as the Ents in Fangorn forest in Middle Earth did, described by Tolkein. I wish I could experience that, but to understand trees can still be exciting.
Soak in the Redwoods in Northern California. Be overwhelmed by their height while imagining their roots entwining from one tree to another underground as if they were holding hands. This act enables them to withstand gale force winds in winter storms without falling. They hold each other up and the language they speak is older than time, noted by their inner rings counting decades into centuries.
The mighty oaks are like high rise buildings of the forest. They house numerous animals, varieties of birds from large to small, insects, ferns and mosses down to minute microscopic organisms. The mighty oaks are generous and living hosts for sure. Trees are an important part of the cycle of life. And any tree, large or small, has the capacity to touch us.
In the M. Night Shyamalan’s story “The Happening,” trees actually rebel at humans that ignore and annihilate them. It would be quite scary if this were to happen for real. But who could blame them? History actually reads like a sci-fi novel when researching the lost forests of Europe. Expanding civilization cut them down as if they didn’t matter, and they have never grown back. Fortunately in the United States, we have protected many of our forest treasures. In places like Scandinavia and Siberia, trees have been saving themselves by adapting to man and weather changes through creative resilience.
In “The Treeline, the Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth,” Peter Rawlence reveals how the trees of the boreal forest have been moving themselves north with creativity and strength, in order to save themselves. Some might say that trees, which oxygenate and give breath to our world, are trying to save us by miraculous natural intervention as well.
In “The Heartbeat of Trees” Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and storyteller in the ecological sense, says that trees have a heart and they beat, a brain and they think, that the greens of the trees calm humans and while walking through a forest, the sounds and sights and smells sharpens man’s senses and reaches deep into the human spirit. Wohlleben hopes to draw people back into the natural world and create an appreciation for our forests and cultivate the idea that trees should be treasured.
In his simple words, Joyce Kilmer left us with the clearest most touching homage to trees. He was in his 20s when he wrote his poem “Trees” in 1914. He was a father of five, a literary critic, lecturer, editor, an American writer and a poet at heart. His life was taken four years after writing his poem, downed in war by a sniper’s bullet.
His words left us with the simplest, most beautiful legacy. And in the southwest corner of North Carolina stands the Joyce Kilmer Memorial forest, which is one of the last forests of virgin hardwoods in the United States. A true tribute to him and his poem and love of trees.
Kilmer’s words fold around us, they hold us. Just like family, trees have roots and branches that reach out and embrace. And with an open spirit in the quiet of the forest, one might feel the breath of trees and hear their heartbeats. May we continue to breathe deep!
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.