Prior to my understanding what my Maple tree friend ( In cedarvale ravine in Toronto in 2005) meant by “Make art with me”: ( at first I though he meant make art for him or using /displaying it on his body but I have come to understand that he meant “with” literally and I have yet to go and DO that with him. It is on my list for the spring.) I did have significant relationships with trees.
In Barbados in the Caribbean( winter 1978) I remember a day outing into the landscape away from the world of hotels and swimming pools. We were taken to a spice plantation and we entered a grove of trees. I was sure I was in a fairy tale. I was permeated by the smell of cinnamon and I had no idea where it was coming from. When our guide told us these were the trees where cinnamon came from I was still looking with a puzzled glance here and there…that’s when it became clear. The bark of the cinnamon tree IS cinnamon. I was brought to tears. It took my breath away and I could have stood there for days. I was so sorry to be rushed along.
Fast forward thirty- five years and I have my back to an old Swedish Oak-probably 200-300 years old. The ground is sprinkled with delicate magical white flowers with little starlike faces. There is moss, there are rocks and water in the distance, it is absolutely heavenly. I introduce myself to this majestic grandfather. I have discovered that the trees in Sweden don’t have to get used to the approach of a human being for conversation. I attribute this to the continuity of a culture of storytelling and belief around the elemental beings. In my exchange with this Oak tree I’m bubbling away about children’s books and this and that ( all inner “silent” exchanges). I have the sense the tree is enthusiastically supporting me and it “says” “ Yes and you could make these beautiful handmade children’s books with “oak” paper.” I paused…I reflected. I recognized I was being teased a bit-“Oak paper” would of course require felling oak trees! I realized, not for the last time, that trees have a sense of irony and certain trees love to tease.
We travelled for a few days and visited an island called “Ooland: . At the northern most tip of that island was a park called “ Trollgarden”. The most treasured feature of this special forest ( with a boardwalk designed to be fully wheelchair accessible) is the beloved Troll tree a 1,000 year old Oak. I approached this being with reverence and gratitude. I had only 20 minutes next to him- I entered the consciousness of the tree and discovered a burgeoning sea of movement and colour. I felt a peace as if swept up in a wave of time. I felt humanity flowing, singing and dancing around the tree connecting to the ocean in a flow or river of thought and deed. I quickly sketched an impression of it from the outside and thanked it deeply. I tore myself away reluctantly. I had an experience of the inner worlds unlike any other I’ve had before or since perhaps as Marjorie Spock described how about the etheric realm- IT WAS A SEA OF SOUNDING COLOUR.