As children we fall in love with trees. Fall for the gallant rightness of the trunk, the generous acceptance of those branching arms, the green leaves that keep our secrets. We all think our relationship with trees—or with a particular tree—is unique. It’s true. Trees stand straight like we do, early husbands and wives in dreaming.
The wounded chestnut tree in Jane Eyre is a symbol of the wounded man Jane loves. John Derian, the decoupage artist and style maestro, often recalls his youthful, formative reveries, born in the limbs of the trees he climbed. And in Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson—nature’s poet laureate—Merlin, the mentor of King Arthur, is trapped in a tree as if he’s become a tree, spellbound by evil Vivien in a moment of weakness. “And in the hollow oak he lay as dead, / And lost to life and use and name and fame.” He is not lost, only dormant. This is Tennyson’s image for the profound sentience of trees. Our botanists have only begun to understand the knowledge that lives within these beings.