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Among trees

by John Maguire
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Sometimes you do not really notice things you consistently say out loud until a friend or someone points it out to you. On a visit to York, a friend of mine started laughing at me and noted, ‘You really like trees don’t you?’ Apparently, I kept commenting on the ancient trees in medieval Eboracum, saying, ‘That’s a majestic tree,’ and the like.

among trees 2

I was recently staying in a delightful hotel in Scotland where a post-breakfast swim in the leisure pool was all the more reviving because it was taken among trees. The water was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass and the treescapes that were viewed were of autumnal, yellowing orange leaves bitch-slapping the glass in the morning wind. It led me to think about how we don’t really give the trees the respect that they deserve. I loved the Pulp album, We Love Life, particularly the song The Trees, with the line,

The trees those useless trees produce the air that I am breathing.

Clearly indicating the rudeness in our attitude to the natural world.

Apparently, Arthur Miller planted a tree on his New York estate every time one of his children had a birthday. I advocate that for every child born a tree should be planted to accommodate the air balance. We do not all have the luxury of living in an estate where we can plant many trees. The German artist Joseph Beuys (‘The Revolution is Us’) campaigned for tree awareness in cities.

One of my particular favourite creatives is Viennese artist Hundertwasser, for his revolutionary philosophies. A living embodiment of the Gandhi dictum, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ I stumbled into awareness of this man when I visited his home – now a museum – and found that he firmly lived his ideas.

You are a guest of nature behave.

Among trees you are at home.

In keeping with these lines, I have decorated the interior of my new flat like a mini-Eden Project. As I write there are 98 plants in development. Friends have likened me to the Batman villain, Poison Ivy, without the sex appeal. I have nicknamed my home TREEVIEW. The sole reason I decided to take the property was because it was on the third floor and had fantastic views of treetops, Childwall woods and a disused train line. The first day I awoke to a misty early morning. Before the dawn from my metal-framed bed the view of the trees in the mist made me think that I had either slept in the Ewok village or I was like Dian Fossey among the gorillas.

among trees 1It’s funny how our subconscious mind takes over sometimes too. I decorated the main room with a wall papered in a silver birch tree print. This particular tree is one of my favorites. I like what it represents, as it is the first tree to grow back after a forest has been completely destroyed. It symbolises resilience, coming back from the brink of no return. After a tempestuous few years including a relationship break up that turned out to be a break through, the death of my beloved Nan and a battle with depression bordering on addiction, the silver birch was the first choice for me to celebrate my new home, my sanctuary, my cave from the world. A symbol that makes me feel safe. The rest of the flat is decorated to make it feel like a hut, so it has a den-like feel, the ultimate tree house.

Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Arthur Miller’s book and plant more trees. All do our bit to promote the natural. It is in all of our interests and research shows you don’t need to be exercising furiously to get the benefits of nature, sitting and observing the trees – or reading, of course! – can give us a boost. A few pots on a balcony, the first bulbs of spring, a walk in the park, or fresh flowers to brighten the otherwise functional work space.

What are your favourite ways of keeping close to nature in the middle of the city?

Trees by Jeremy Ricketts via Unsplash

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