To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall”
Excerpt From: Hardy, Thomas. “Under the Greenwood Tree, or, the Mellstock quire; a rural painting of the Dutch School”
Holly carefully inched her way forward towards the little group of trees in front of her. She had her eyes closed and was feeling with her feet, aware of the changes in light as she approached the trunk. Her daughter was looking on, quietly supporting her in this quest. Her mother carefully stretched out her fingers to brush the bark on the trunk. More confident now she stepped up to the tree and felt its rough surface with her hands then stretched her arms out to embrace the trunk to assess it’s size, it’s girth. Taking a few more moments to consider them, then,
“Yes this is my tree!” She shouted back to her daughter.
It was an old game they played as a family. They would take it in turns to lead their partner blindfolded to one of the trees in a small group and then they would get to know the tree by feeling it’s skin and body. It was interesting to note how one remembered the characteristics of an individual tree without using sight. Touching with fingers, maybe with cheek, smelling it, remembering its size and its surroundings. Then you would be taken away from your tree, turned around several times. Next, with eyes open, you had to find your tree again.
Holly remembered the beginning of Thomas Hardy’s novel Under the Greenwood Tree, ‘To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.’ She marvelled at the knowledge of the woodlanders. Most people nowadays could not identify a tree by looking at it. The idea that anyone could identify a tree by its voice was so strange and so inspiring.
She mused on this idea as she stroked the ancient trunk, marking its knots and lines of age, and wondering if she would ever learn its voice.