Festival of the Trees - 60

Not that we are trying to project our consciousness everywhere, but there is an affinity. Trees speak to us. You might call this the genii loci, or indwelling spirit, or devi, or just the hum of the bark. Roots dig deep and branches reach like arms to the sun. Trees are natural worshippers. Look at them, brazen ringed wood and leaves breathing the planet clean.

There is no wedding like a tree in flower. Bouquets were born from the wishes of trees.

This month I had asked us to record an engagement with a tree or trees, preferably in video, but any form. To talk to the trees and bring back what transpired. This communing I knew would reflect us back to ourselves as we projected our way of seeing things onto the arborescent consciousness, and so that self-consciousness was part of it, seeing how we shape what we see. I also knew that what I was asking was a type of vision quest. For you to seek out the tree of your dream consciousness, the tree that is singing to you, or to tell us about a vision that involved communion with a tree. All this assumes a deep connection to trees, to an ancient archetypal forest wisdom that we are likely born with.

Bob, from Thunder Valley Drums writes: I just stumbled across your wonderful project and was particularly drawn to the "sound" portion of your call for entries. I make drums from lightning-struck trees, and in my tradition, this allows a tree to live again. Here is a link to a video I just put up a few days ago about it. Making a Lightning-Struck Drum.

The video is dramatically edited with an opening clip of lightning and a falling tree, and potent, the storm, the cutting of the fire struck tree, the drummer drumming the drum drumming thunder...

I so enjoyed your idea of creating a piece about our relationship with trees .... Stirling Davenport, whose blog is Dreaming Out Loud, writes, I actually made a few videos today on my walk. But this one was my favorite .... 

The simple clarity of this video is disarming. The structure of the video is almost like a poem itself. First, we are shown a view of the tree, this tree might be very old, Stirling surmises; then she stands with her back against the tree, feels its sap, as Native Americans suggest, you can feel its life, and go high in the branches to its treetop, and you can see from the tree's point of view; and then the poet, the woman, rests against the tree, who nests her, as she holds the camera towards herself for us to see the feelings passing across her face, and says, this tree has been here a long time ... before there were houses, and, as she listens, that the rain is coming. There is a sense of the extraordinary in the ordinary in this video, and an intimacy that we don't often see.

Jason Crane, of Poetry, Politics and Jazz. But mostly poetry, sent a link to a series of photographs he is compiling called, Buddha in the Modern World, and do take a look at them - they, too, are disarmingly wonderful. Here is an appropriate image for this month's Festival of the Trees, the Buddha in Central Park in New York City.

Dave Bonta, one of the founders of The Festival of Trees, sent a link to an animated video he had found describing the process of the strangler fig, and in an email thread said: Fun fact I learned at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew [in England]: the bo tree, under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightment, is a species of strangler fig.
While I don't think quite the Bodhisattva bo tree, we can see how strangler figs can overtake forests in CreatureCast - Strangler Fig, narrated by Matt Ogburn, with artwork and editing by Sophia Tintori, and an original score by Amil Byleckie. Casey Dunn writes: the strangler fig first avoids having to sprout in the dark understory of the rainforest by growing in the tops of the trees closer to the sun, and then avoids getting too dehydrated up there by dropping roots to the forest floor. Finally it grows back up to the top of the tree, surrounding and strangling the host tree on the way, taking advantage of the tree's structural integrity to support its own hollow body.

Dick Jones, of The Patteran Pages, sent a perfect poem about a nature deity, a figure from whose face leaves sprout, including vines from the nostrils, mouth, vegetation that is often in flower. The Green Man, a sculptural or relief figure that adorns gates or buildings.



Trees are so certain, implacable,
even when fallen, each one
a manifesto proposing stillness

around a slow heart. Philosophers
out of the earth, they breathe
into the secret sky.

Where they reach with ease
and grace and find, I reach
to the sinew’s length then dream.

To be straight and unencumbered,
carrying the shifting cargo high,
neither offering nor withholding;

to lodge song and let it go;
to save in green and spend in gold;
to dance a frieze against the skyline;

to observe impassive like Hydra
from a thousand faces, each one
bearded, lidded, rimmed in leaves.

Suzi Smith, who blogs at Spirit Whispers, has composed her first video slideshow with a series of very beautiful photographs, among them pale green seed wings, and a voiceover that, as she wrote in an email, I winged it with the words. Goddess-Particle is the first recording of my voice since i was a kid, on the first slideshow i've made... and open to the public... with no edits, mainly cos i haven't worked out how yet!, and, while her voice is a little muffled, there is a sense of awakening, of speaking after a long time of silence. The whole video poem reminded me of first love.

Turning again to an ordinary videotaping of an extraordinary tree, the visceral sense of tree bark, climbing a gnarled live oak, close up, so real I can feel it under my fingers, smell the earth and wood. Rebecca, of Rebecca in the Woods takes us up the tree as if we were insects in three short videos (well under a minute), accompanied by a Carolina Wren. She writes: spiders, skinks, treefrogs… little things that can’t step back and admire the whole tree but experience its labyrinthine branches close up. Really close up. How about if I took some video clips of how a spider or skink sees things?

Speaking of oaks, and following the insect theme, here is a recipe for 'Spring Oak Leaf Wine,' where, we are told, by Jasmine, of Nature Whispers, to Wash the leaves in cold water removing all woody stalks, damaged leaves, caterpillars and other hedgerow stow aways (I found several green caterpillars and a black and red caterpillar of the White Ermine Moth).

The wine looks quite magical, and I'd love to try it midsummer night's eve, or Solstice eve, for I'm sure it would offer special arborescent visions.

Tree-Pot Teapots: David D. Gilbaugh writes that he listens to the sounds of the earth. Wind, breezes blowing grass and leaves, falling rock, water falls, thunder and lightning, falling rain; any sound the earth makes that I can hear. They are authentic sounds that can be felt kinesthetically and experienced as they take place in my presence in real time. These are my favorite sounds, the sounds of earth and life expressing itself. And that the act of creating a work of art... always involves relationship to something or between at least two things. At least one of those things always me. His sculptures are knotted, whorled pieces that, even if sculpted out of different materials, like paperclay, carry the imprint and energy of wisened trees, Gandalf trees, grandfather trees. Whether he's made a teapot (let me tell you, these are the receptacles for that oak wine on Solstice), or a lamp or a surreal imaginist sculpture, the magic of trees is everywhere. Because his images at Flickr are copyrighted, I can't copy an image of one of his pieces to show you, but do click on this link and delight yourself with rich imaginings as you view these unique pieces.

A.Decker, of A.Decker Art, writes: of Vision Trees, which immediately brought this gnarled old catalpa, still standing in Mom's front yard, to mind. I was Tarzan in this tree; I was an ape in this tree; a dinosaur; a dinosaur hunter. Sometimes I just climbed up as high as I could, just to be away... Yup, I spent a lot of my childhood, forming my imagination up in those limbs and leaves, so if I have a "Vision Tree" that has to be it.

What memories this wonderful drawing of the old catalpa has.

Another tree that evokes powerful childhood memories is the mango tree Beej writes of in his blog, The Green Ogre. Beej has titled his submission to FOTT, Assassins in the Garden: For 20 years the mango tree that my father planted had stood its ground. It took less than 20 hours to bring it down. And all of us were complicit assassins. Like his father, I, too, am an excessive mango lover -my memories rising from eating mangos off trees as a child in Africa. A sweet mango is heaven itself. The story Beej tells in a photo-essay is a painful one. The mango tree, from stunted beginnings, grew to give copious fruit, but a tree plunges roots, seeking out water veins. A crack in the wall of the sump demonstrated that our tree was rather thirsty. Roots were also wedged in the foundation of the house, threatening its durability. After years of painful procrastination, my father made a decision: The tree would have to go.

The photographs chart the death of the beloved mango tree, and the essay covers its breadth through the years to the last, sad day. Because they are copyrighted, I can't include an image here, but do go and read and look and ponder on the relationships we have with our trees.

Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, of E-ratio, sends a very sad link, a photo he en-scripted, The Anti-Christ is not a person, the Anti-Christ is an action.  He says, click on the sentence and it'll take you to the story. If you click on the photo you'll see the aftermath (but beware, it's upsetting). A tree that has been the focus of collective vision for two millennia.

A Holy Tree has been cast down by vandals,  the NPR article continues: Last week, vandals sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. The tree is thought by some to have ties to the earliest days of Christianity, and each year local children cut sprigs from it to garnish the Queen's Christmas dining table.

Legend has it that the thorn tree sprouted from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea after he arrived in England from the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Experts says this type of thorn tree usually lives for just 100 years, but Glastonbury residents have kept the line going by periodically taking clippings to plant new trees.

All is not lost, according to Tony Kirkham of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He says of the tree: It will obviously be deformed but it will put grafts out next spring. The Holy Thorn Tree could recover in about 10 years.

The demise of trees, for whatever reason, is always a sad affair. And, yet, don't we all get cut down at some point in our lives, and then after we grieve, a small recovery begins, like little shoots...

Let's turn to an animated video of a tree who inspires us to be joyful. Michaela, of Ove Pictures, writes, we have recently made a small animated music video with the trees and we hope that it will be suitable also for your Festival of the Trees. Free To Be Me is simply delightful - happy, easy, inspiring, and the animation is superb...

Diego Stocco, 'a sound designer and composer,' who 'loves to create new sound experiences in unusual ways,' on Vimeo, writes, of his unique tree music, Music From A Bonsai: I always liked bonsai trees, and I was curious to try the approach I used for "Music from a Tree" on a smaller scale, so I bought a bonsai and recorded this little experimental piece.

To determine the key I used the lowest note I could play and recorded the rest around it.
Besides playing the leaves, I used bows of different sizes, a piano hammer and a paint brush.
As far as microphones I used my Røde NT6, a customized stethoscope and tiny MEAS piezo transducers.

I played all the sounds and rhythms only with the bonsai, I didn't use any synthesizer or samplers to create or modify the sounds. I hope you'll like it.

Hugh, of Rock Paper Lizard, takes us on a tour of the arboretum known as "The Crescent" in the heart of Vancouver, on the West Side, a bulls-eye among the old-money mansions of Shaughnessy,. The Crescent is a circular roadway, or a circle, in the centre of which is planted with many old and unusual trees

Silvia Hoefnagels, of Windy Willow, takes us through a musing on which trees to talk to as our theme this month is arboreal conversations. Her post is called, 'Tree Confabulation.' She writes, The first tree that came to mind was my willow, as it is always in motion, with that lovely gentle rustle of leaves. I love to stand inside its flowing branches and look out into the world beyond. There is a peacefulness in its embrace. Silvia also considers beeches, sunburst honey locusts, but decides to go out and chat with my willow this morning, but when I got outside, I had a different kind of confabulation. ;)

I simply love the wordless dance of this video, the bodily teaching of the willow, and its correlation to how to bend and sway in our emotions, in our openness to our lives. Something comforting, like a lullabye, about willows, at least when you talk to them (as I did) or are inspired to a poetry of motion, as Silvia is, and she lets her camera record this moment of communing....

Ingrid Nelson's photographs of trees in water are beautiful: 'Pavement Trees': Last summer I started shooting concrete and parking lots and dividing lines, fading paint and patterns. Alongside my compulsive inclination to take a photo of every tree branch I see, this contrast to the natural world was a break from the norm. With all the rain this winter, my eye was drawn into the glistening cement and of course...puddles. I am fascinated how my two worlds seem to magically intersect and become one dimensional galaxies both in reflection and in print. It's almost like tree trapping ... yet transient as we know that summer is just around the corner and these accidental worlds will exist no more.

Kathryn Esplin, who blogs on Gather, writes: Here is a pdf link not written by me, but about some famous trees in our area, that were ancient - between 400 and 900 years old, the famous Waverly Oaks, 23 white oaks that grew here until they were finally destroyed by ice and storms prior to 1920. Few huge and ancient tree stands existed in the US even in the 19th C. The giant sequoia trees are 2,000 years old and during the Mesozoic era circa 250 million years ago to 65 milion years ago, mega Flora like the Giant Sequoia redwoods of N. California were populous over the earth; today, these redwoods are upwards of 375 feet high.

And from Nora, a link called 'Make a Forest': ‘Make A Forest’ aims to raise awareness on environmentally sustainable forest management by creating a link between nature and culture. Imagine a cultural forest as diverse as a real forest, what will it look like? Cultural organizations and educational institutions around the world are invited alongside local artists, architects and designers to help create this virtual forest. It will take shape in 2011, the year declared by the United Nations as the Year of Forests. The platform makeaforest.org will become the meeting place of all activities. www.makeaforest.org www.facebook.com/makeaforest. Looks exciting!

And, lastly, my offering, 'Vision Trees.' For this Festival I thought to do a painting of some trees of significance to me and to make a video of the process, so hooked up my camera and set to work. The footage is sped up 1200% to create a time-lapse painting video. Afterwards I added voice: The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India and permanent acrylic inks, oil paints, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' a Pastor who blogs wrote. I hadn't seen that. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it.

Nesting in our trees, perhaps we all nest in our trees.

Inspired by Dick Jones' The Green Man, a hint of what's to come next month, so start working on your submissions.

The next edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted at Via Negativa, and you can send submissions to Dave Bonta at (bontasaurus) at (yahoo [dot] com). The theme is open -- but since it's the 5th anniversary, Dave is especially interested in new discoveries about trees and forests, both scientific discoveries and those of a more personal kind.

from Macbeth (written around 1604-1608) by William Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 5, pg 2:


           Thou comest to use
Thy tongue; thy story quickly.

           Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do ’t.

           Well, say, sir.

           As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought
The wood began to move.

           Liar and slave!

           Let me endure your wrath, if ’t be not so.
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove.


  1. What an incredible festival! Such a wonderful collection, thank you for hosting Brenda, it looks like folks really had fun with this theme.

  2. Yes, Jade, the Festival of the Trees is a multi-media carnival today! I loved every entry and enjoyed every moment composing the essay.

  3. Brenda!
    I have a video represented here, so hope it does not appear self-serving when I say how enthralled I am with this entire concept, and so very thankful for its origination. I absolutely love these various expressions of our connections with trees, and thus, with All That Is. The line that resonated so deeply within me today is: "Bouquets were born from the wishes of trees." Most eloquent and profound.
    I was greatly moved by the words and images from everyone who has so far contributed, and I thank each of you.
    With deep appreciation for all that you do, Brenda,
    Aho & Namaste.

  4. Glad that you enjoy the offerings of Festival of the Trees, now going into its 5th year. It is hosted by volunteer at a different blogs each month. The Carnival is always a rich and varied and gracious offering of tree love. It's here: http://festivalofthetrees.wordpress.com/. Add it to your feed reader so you can browse the editions any time, and please, continue to contribute your wonderful work with wood and sound, and your shamanic experiences of trees.

    Glad you like this month's Festival, and I love your video of course. Namaste, Brenda

  5. Thanks so much for hosting and for including me!

    All the best,

    Jason Crane

  6. What a lovely festival this month! It's an unusual and beautiful celebration of trees, isn't it? Thank you so much, Brenda. I'm quite enjoying it all.

  7. Thanks for hosting! A lot of really different posts this month.

  8. Love your Buddha in the Modern World photograph series, Jason... thanks so much for submitting them to Festival of the Trees!

    Yes, Silvia, a celebration of trees in motion! Thank you so much for submitting your wonderful video - I absolutely loved it. And yes, haven't we all? (Or wanted to.) Just great.

    Those were very unique and intriguing videos, Rebecca, and I am so glad you thought of videotaping from the vantage of the insect who inhabits trees in ways we never can... a lovely, visceral climb up a fabulous old oak. Yes, a wide range of posts... wonderful, huh?!

  9. What a splendid curation this has turned out to be, from beginning to end!

  10. Thank you, Beej, and your entry continues to haunt me, the photographic elegy so beautifully done.

  11. Thank you, Brenda. That piece is very special to me. I'm sorry you were not able to copy the photos from my blog. That safeguard exists to prevent unauthorised copying. In my future contributions, I shall send links to the images. Hope you'll host the Festival again. It was such a fascinating reimagining and retelling of so many varied thoughts.

  12. Hi Brenda, I just found this on Google.
    This is a very well done presentation and blog. I really enjoyed your summaries and thank you so much for including my work and quotes here. I truly appreciate your insightful comments. You have permission to use any photos and writings that you wish from Flicker or even my poetry posted on Gather.com.


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