I have always loved trees. When I was a kid, I used to wish I could climb as high as my brother did when he was trying to build his tree house out in the back yard. When the leaves would spiral off the branches in the fall, I always had an assortment of the most colorful maple leaves that I could find. In high school, I had my first trip to Vermont and spent some time hanging out under a stand of trees in a heavily-wooded area, listening to the autumn rain splash down on the leaves and branches above me and laughing when I would eventually get wet, which was surprisingly intermittent. The trees around me were that thickly interwoven.
As an adult, I traveled up to Door County, Wisconsin for the first time in July, and then again that following October. I felt as if I’d found paradise when I saw what fall splendor looked like with all of those trees, against the backdrop of both Green Bay and Lake Michigan. I can never fully celebrate autumn without a trip up north to see all those magnificent giants and their glorious streaming scarlet and flaming orange finery.
Today was a windy day here in Illinois, and the trees rustled and sighed in the gusts that both caressed and tossed their branches. And it’s when the wind is blowing in the fall, whether gentle or harsh, that I feel most as if the trees are talking to each other.
There is a road up in Door County that Jim and I love to walk. The total trip is just a little over three miles, and back when I was still running the occasional 5K, that was my favorite training route. There are trees all along the way, and when the wind gets going, the branches lean back and forth and make their little “talking” noises, and I swear they are having their conversations. During one of our many walks up and down that road, I realized why J.R.R. Tolkien would have come up not only with talking trees, but with Ents. If you were to take that walk with us, you would understand, too. The trees on this road are old and tall and majestic, and when they bother to lean toward each other at all, and only at the wind’s insistence, I would swear they are sharing observations and comments. The writer in me would swear they are conversing with each other. And I wish I could understand them.
People are drawn to different aspects of nature. My grandson, AJ, loves predatory animals like sharks and all of the big cats. His room is decorated with pictures of these critters and he always makes me think of a particular dialogue from Jurassic World: “We need more.” “More what?” “More teeth. We need more teeth.” (If you’ve seen the movie, this will make sense. If you haven’t, it will make sense when you do.) My other grandson, Johnathan, is currently obsessed with poisonous snakes and spiders. He just loves tarantulas and the fer-de-lance, and spends time reading up on “the most poisonous snakes” or “the biggest spiders” in the world.
Lots of my friends are gardeners and they have my complete respect and admiration. I’d garden too, if I didn’t have the unfortunate tendency to kill nearly everything I try to cultivate. It’s like they pop their little budding heads above the ground, see me, think to themselves, “Oh, it’s YOU,” and then curl up and die after giving up completely.
But trees? Trees are my buddies. I always feel better, no matter where I am, if I can look out the window and see trees. Even just one. I feel great when I get to go out among them, like in the north woods of Wisconsin. They make me happy. I think I might even be able to grow one without killing it, but I haven’t tried yet so that the fantasy can continue to thrive within my head. But one day, I may just try growing an acorn. If that lifted its head above the ground, saw me, and kept going, wouldn’t that just be amazing? In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the ones out in nature. Maybe if I hang around them long enough, one day I might begin to understand their conversations.