I do not think that anything could be more different from me than a tree. I am forced always to move from one place to the other, even when I am almost not moving and being a snail with a camera beneath the canopy, then it is what I do. I move. I cannot even imagine how it must be never to move, to set root somewhere and then never relocate again. Of course there are nurseries where trees are first grown and then moved to another place to settle, but the principle for the majority of trees is that they land somewhere as a nut or a seed, and there they stay.
Even if I imagine that I stand completely still and stretch my arms as high as possible, and that I have several of them, so the arms, like strands of hair, become a sort of treetop – the crown of me, then it is impossible for me, not at the same time to think of some kind of escape route. I think about evading, dodging, sliding past something, because movement means safety to me. Think, to just stand there regardless of the stomping of boots on the wood floor, the squashing of things beneath them or the sound of a chainsaw, that cuts and whines. Instinctively I understand animals and bugs, because I can see them move, hurrying away from the boots and away from the sound of steel and humans. But the tree, a creature that just remains standing in all its vulnerability, because it cannot do otherwise. I cannot understand that.
When the tree stretches its branches upwards and turns its leaves towards the sunlight, it eats starlight. We are all dependent on the light of the sun in different ways, but to be a creature who lives on the light of a star, a roaring ball of fire far away in space, but a life giver. In a weird sort of metamorphosic way, I think it is almost the most beautiful thing I can imagine: this connection that starlight is remade in those great beings, who at the same time have their roots solidly planted in the earth/soil, and who is nurtured by all the life that comes from earth’s darkness and the water that moves there, under and between the roots.
Since the dawn of time trees have given us almost everything we need. Oxygen; Air so we can breathe. Shelter; wood for our houses and stables. Food; nuts and fruit for us and our animals. Healing; medicine from leaves, bark and juices and repose when we walk in the woods. Memory and joy; in the making of paper, so we can write and read and communicate across distances and centuries. Tools; to create our societies… and so many other things. Warmth and light, when it is darkest in the midst of winter! I think this is what I like the most about the yule fest, that it has the tree of life in its center, and that it is there in the truest and most literal form. It has always seemed to me that it was exactly right, when we danced around the tree yule evening and sang to it in praise. Thanks to the tree and thanks to the wood and thanks to our star and to the earth.
I cannot single out a certain kind of tree as my favorite, but I wanted to make a post for you filled with wood, so you could see the year and the light turning through it. In the end I decided to show some pictures of oak trees. A whole lot could be said about them, but I will refrain from doing so this time around. All you need to know is that there are many very old oak trees in the wood where I am the most. Trees live slowly, and that, of course, is yet another thing about the wood, and the things that you come to think about when you walk in it. That is, when you plant a tree or refrain from cutting one down, you potentially reach beyond your own lifespan and pass something on to a humanity you cannot even begin to imagine. You just have to leave the place, let it be as it may. Another thing, which is difficult to imagine.
A post scriptum. I like the poem I have included beneath these words very much. It was written by Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) and was first published in 1797. I made a free rhythmic translation into Danish for the Danish version of this post, but my ability does not extend into translating it from German to English, at least Robyn, Rie and I would have to stick our heads together for some time to do so. I have unfortunately not found any older translations online that were not copyrighted, but if any of you do, please let me know!
Aus den Gärten komm’ ich zu euch, ihr Söhne des Berges!
Aus den Gärten, da lebt die Natur geduldig und häuslich,
Pflegend und wieder gepflegt mit dem fleißigen Menschen zusammen.
Aber ihr, Ihr Herrlichen! steht, wie ein Volk von Titanen
In der zahmeren Welt und gehört nur euch und dem Himmel,
Der euch nährt’ und erzog und der Erde, die euch geboren.
Keiner von euch ist noch in die Schule der Menschen gegangen,
Und ihr drängt euch fröhlich und frei, aus der kräftigen Wurzel,
Unter einander herauf und ergreift, wie der Adler die Beute,
Mit gewaltigem Arme den Raum, und gegen die Wolken
Ist euch heiter und groß die sonnige Krone gerichtet.
Eine Welt ist jeder von euch, wie die Sterne des Himmels
Lebt ihr, jeder ein Gott, in freiem Bunde zusammen.
Könnt’ ich die Knechtschaft nur erdulden, ich neidete nimmer
Diesen Wald und schmiegte mich gern ans gesellige Leben.
Fesselte nur nicht mehr ans gesellige Leben das Herz mich,
Das von Liebe nicht läßt, wie gern würd’ ich unter euch wohnen!