Anne here, and today, for something a little bit different, I'm going to talk about trees. I'm very fond of big old trees and spent much of my childhood up in a tree, dreaming, or reading or surveying my imaginary kingdon. I remember once, when we moved house and I was feeling really unhappy about it — it was in the city, and having come from the country where I roamed far and wide at will, I didn't like the look of all those cramped streets and houses and roads.
But then I found a big old tree in the back yard, behind the garage, and I immediately climbed it and found a spot to sit in it and gaze out over the rooftops, and that made me feel much happier.
This is a favorite painting by a favorite artist, Anita Klein and I think you will see why I love it so much.
When Europeans came to this country a couple of centuries ago, they set about cutting down thousands of big, ancient trees. That legacy horrifies me, even though I understand that they needed to clear land to grow food, and that the native hardwood timber was good for building, but even so, some of the old photos are so devastating to look at, knowing that they cut down trees that were hundreds of years old.
There is still a lot of controversy over clearing forest land, but some magnificent trees and forest districts are now protected by the creation of national parks, by organizations like the National Trust and various conservation-inclined groups. And a growing number of cities and towns have significant tree registers.
I loved the avenues of live oaks I saw in New Orleans. This live oak that has connections to a US president. In Malaysia, I saw temples which were entirely enclosed by tree roots. It happens in lots of places. And the grand old Mountain Ash tree (a variety of eucalyptus) at the top of this post was voted favorite tree one year on the register of significant trees in my state. I think the movement to register special trees in towns and cities is wonderful.
We need to cherish ancient trees all over the world — and plant new ones and give them a chance to grow ancient. I remember when I was a little girl, outside the church we attended, a venerable old olive tree grew that had been brought "as a seedling from the Garden of Gethsemane in the Holy Land by Archdeacon J C P Allnutt in1881." (That was from the plaque.) I thought that olive was sooo old . . . until I travelled to Greece and Italy where a hundred years was considered relatively young.
Trees are for dreaming in and making the past and fictional worlds come alive. I remember when I was a child and we visited Sherwood Forest and I could so imagine Robin Hood and the others sheltering in those enormous oaks.
Fantasy writer Juliet Marillier posted this photo on FB of an ancient yew tree in Ireland. It's been there since the 16th century, and if you've read her wonderful books, you can be sure it's going to be feature in the ancient Celtic world of her stories (many of which I've recommended in our What We're Reading posts.)
In my book, The Scoundrel's Daughter, the older of my two heroines in that story was effectively dared to climb a large plane tree in the garden behind her house. In the past, the hero's small daughters had been called hoydens by their grandmother for climbing a tree, and as punishment they'd been sent away to school. My heroine wanted to counteract that shaming, and demonstrate that a lady could climb a tree and remain a lady, but the hero was there, and she was very self-conscious.
All her life, Alice had strived to please others and do what she was told was ‘the right thing’ and finding it a thankless task. Did she really want to set this earnest little girl on the same path?
She made up her mind. “Turn your back,” she told Lord Tarrant.
He promptly did a military-style about-face that made Lina, still in his arms, giggle. The little girl squirmed around and watched Alice over his shoulder.
Luckily the tree was an old one, and unlike most of the plane trees in London’s streets and parks, it had never been pruned or pollarded. The trunk was broad and lumpy with handholds and branches sticking out. The larger branches began about three feet off the ground.
Alice carefully gathered the skirts of her dress, thanking the impulse that had caused her to wear an old dress she didn’t particularly care for. She rolled the skirt and petticoat up and tucked them into the waist of her drawers. (snip)
Scrabbling with her feet to gain purchase on the lumpiest part of the trunk, she tried to swing her leg up to hook it over the first big branch. Once, twice . . . she almost managed it, then suddenly a large warm hand placed itself on her bottom and shoved—Alice squeaked with indignation—and there she was, sitting on the branch.
She glared down at him, her cheeks on fire, and not just from the effort of climbing. Her whole body was hot and flustered. Even her bottom was blushing—she could feel it. “You, you—”
“Helped, yes, I know.” He was grinning. “It’s not against the rules, is it?”
It was very much against the rules of gentlemanly behavior—watching her climb in her drawers when she’d told him to turn his back. As for putting his hand on her bottom! Her almost-naked bottom! She could still feel the warm imprint of it on her skin.
She so wanted to ring a peal over his head, but she couldn’t do it in front of his daughters—and he knew it, the rogue.
“Can you go on from there by yourself?” he asked with a solicitude that didn’t fool her for a moment. His eyes gave him away every time. He was enjoying this.
I could have filled this blog with just tree photos — I have dozens — but I figured I ought to write something. Hope you enjoyed it.
What about you — did you climb trees as a child? And is there a significant tree register in your area? Do you have a favorite tree now, or in the past? Tell us about your favorite tree.