Imagine standing “inside a forest of every forest and every forest that’s ever been made.”
One of my favorite writers, Herman Hesse, once proclaimed trees as “the most penetrating of preachers; they do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
Sometimes I forget the spirit of these amazing preachers, consumed instead by whatever it is I can gain from them in the time being. Particularly now that I work with them, I find myself focused on the yield and the elements that may or may not influence my harvest in the next few months. The logistics of farming consumes so much energy that the poetry of nature and of life is lost in the everyday stresses of managing a farm.
I forget that my father, when he was still strong as a bull, labored over a small land by the foot of a mountain to make a diverse and self-sustaining farm. That the heirloom trees on that land stood over him in the heat of the sun and argued with him when he tried to tame them. That every new seedling he planted heard his songs and stories about duwendes and fairies as they were birthed into the land. That my brothers and I were once tasked to plant more trees outside our gates because you can never have enough trees for security.
The farm holds a piece of our family’s history and story and there are no better witnesses to those precious moments than our trees.
A thousand breadths away in the UK, Katie Paterson in her new art installation combined 10,000 unique tree species to form a single snapshot of Earth’s history.
“Hollow” is an arboreal microcosm permanently installed at the Royal Fort Gardens. Collaborating with architects, scientists, researchers, as well as with evolutionary biologist Dr. Jon Bridle, Paterson collected tree samples from every country on the planet including historically significant trees. The endeavor spanned several years.
Included in the installation are pieces from the Indian Banyan Tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment, a Japanese Gingko tree in Hiroshima (a tree that witnessed and survived one of the darkest moments of human history), and the ancient 4,846 years-old Methuselah tree.
Under your feet lie fossils which span 390 million years, and above you thousands of unique tree samples connect across time and space, each with their own story to tell.
Watch the BBC documentary on Hollow here: