The Words for Wellbeing Organisation

Inspiration from a tree

by Mandy Haggith

When it comes to writing, there’s nothing, I find, quite as helpful as trees. Pencils and paper are mostly made of their wood, and they breathe in the carbon dioxide we puff out and exhale oxygen. The verb ‘to inspire’ means literally to breathe in, so if you need inspiration, go to a tree.

The first step is to choose one. A forest usually offers a bewildering choice, and while a walk in among trees can be delightful, it is good to home in on a single trunk, and stop there. It can be helpful to go looking for a particular species, because they all have different characters, and if you like to do research, they have no end of fascinating ecological, folklore and literary interest. (see http://www.mandyhaggith.net/a-b-tree.asp for some titbits and links).

Whether you are armed with facts and literary gems, or whether you simply go as you are, the key thing is to take yourself to the tree and make contact. Start to get to know the tree’s physical shape, its bulk, its texture of bark, its branching pattern and the way its twigs scribble on the sky. Touch it with your hands, lean in and feel its strength and sturdy motion.

Now listen. Is it creaking? Have birds come to sing in its upper branches? What are its rhythms and sounds?

Breathe in and allow your senses of smell and of taste to enjoy the shade and shelter. Describe the scent of the tree’s air or the fragrance of any plants nearby. Lick its bark or chew on a tasty leaf or just savour a memory evoked by the tree.

Now that your senses are alive, look closely and allow your imagination to penetrate where your eyes can’t see. There is as much root underground as wood above. There is a vast network of living structure inside the trunk. Creatures are living in cracks, nesting in hollows, feeding and thriving, fighting and hiding. The Vikings believed the whole world is a tree. Perhaps if you look hard enough you will see dryads or spirits or former lives.

Now write. Put pencil to paper and let the tree mean whatever it may mean to you. Both you and it are unique. Breathe in its air and breathe out whatever words come to you. Speak.

Before you leave, thank the tree for its inspiration.

Shorter version

We puff out carbon dioxide. Trees absorb it and exhale oxygen. The verb ‘to inspire’ means literally to breathe in, so if you need inspiration, go to a tree.

First choose a tree. Make contact. Observe its physical shape, bulk, bark texture, branching pattern and the way its twigs scribble on the sky. Touch it, lean in and feel its strength and sturdy motion.

Now listen. Is it creaking? Are birds singing in its upper branches? What are its rhythms and sounds?

Enjoy the scent of the tree’s air. Lick its bark or chew on a tasty leaf or just savour a memory it evokes.

Now look closely and allow your imagination to penetrate where your eyes can’t see. There is as much root underground as wood above, a vast network of living structure inside the trunk and creatures living in cracks and hiding in hollows.

Now write. Put pencil to paper and let the tree mean whatever it may mean to you. Both you and it are unique. Breathe in its air and breathe out whatever words come. Speak.

Before you leave, thank the tree for its inspiration.

For titbits of information about native tree species see
http://www.mandyhaggith.net/a-b-tree.asp.