If Norse myths are to be believed then, yes, we are – and there are plenty of less credible stories around in these days of Trump triumphant.
But I’m off politics. For today.
So, staying with tales of yore…
In the Nordic mythic universe, not only is our world a great ash tree – Yggdrasill, the tree of life or world tree – but we humans are all derived from lumps of wood three gods found when out walking.
Those gods were far from lonely.
They had dwarfs and giants, monsters and elves for company, plus the dreadful offspring of Loki – an assortment of creatures you really wouldn’t want round your dinner table. Or anywhere else in your vicinity.
But they went ahead and created humans.
I haven’t read enough, yet, to work out why. I’m not sure I’d have created us.
But I love trees.
I love them so much it hurts when I see one being felled, for some apparently trivial reason, by a fellow human being.
At the sound of a chainsaw I go running to the window. Anxiety rising as my mind races.
Is it a tree? Which tree? Where?
I’m usually relieved. A joiner cutting timber, or a tree surgeon, properly trimming a branch or two.
For the last three years I’ve lived surrounded by trees. Our small garden augmented by a bosky bit of the golf course round us.
Birch trees and pines.
Holly, hawthorn, rowan.
Even little oaks. Probably sown by jays, who make a habit of burying acorns.
I’ve watched these trees, through the seasons and the hours.
Fizzing frothily green in the cool of middling spring.
Lush, fresh and fulsome in the heady months of summer.
Gold, brown and red in the warmth of early autumn.
Bare-branched in the scalpel light of frosty winter days.
Amid the weeds and brambles, the pretty fox, Shy Reynardine, basks on a sunny afternoon.
A flash of red and white, followed by tapping, alerts me to the woodpecker’s head-banging presence.
And in summer butterflies dance in the sunbeams – and feed on treetop nectar.
It’s a magical place.
I swear fairies hold their pageants here, after the world turns dark. When the bats flit and the Little Owl’s out hunting.
And, who knows? Perhaps the grass has been flattened by the passage of mythical beasts. Of unicorns, bearing elves.
But, last week, something clouded my vision.
I was having a very domestic week, since my work-in-hand is out being read.
I was getting stuff done 😦
One day, back from town, I traipsed upstairs to the kitchen to put on the kettle. And heard a chainsaw.
I hardly dared look.
I went to the balcony that overlooks our little back garden – and the rough.
There I saw warriors in high-vis yellow armour. And helmets. And goggles.
One of them wielding a chainsaw.
Three trees were already dead.
A bigger one, right behind our neighbour’s fence, still stood, its pretty shape proud against the grim grey sky.
I pulled open the door. Stepped out onto the balcony.
‘You’re not cutting any more down are you?’
‘Yes. That one.’ The pretty-shaped one.
‘And some of that one’s going too.’ A branching birch that was a blaze of gold last autumn.
I felt hollow inside. My trees – but not my trees. Gone.
No chance to save them, to ring a man and plead for their lives.
But like the idiot I am, I rang anyway. And some time later a man returned my call.
‘It’s all right,’ he reassured me. ‘It’s part of a managed plan.’
‘But we had no warning,’ I said.
‘If there’d been a health and safety issue, we’d have warned you,’ he replied.
I could almost feel him patting me on the head and saying, ‘there-there’. And I bet he was thinking, it’s none of her business, they’re our trees, after all.
Can trees, really be owned? Who owns the rain that waters them, the wind that makes them strong, the worms that till the soil?
But I wasn’t thinking that then.
‘Imagine you’re me,’ I blurted out. ‘The trees inspire you, you write about them, they’re… Can’t you put yourself in my place?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘to be honest, I can’t.’
‘Well, then,’ I said. ‘Imagine you’re a painter who paints those trees and you come home to find they’re gone.’
Like David Hockney, I thought, but didn’t say. I suppose the felling of ‘his’ Yorkshire trees was part of another ‘managed plan’.
There’s more felling to come, apparently. But the plan doesn’t have a timescale he would – or could – divulge.
So now I live I a different world. Anxious at what’s yet to come.
If you love trees you’ll know how I feel.
But if you’re ambivalent, you may be wondering, why the fuss?
Well, I sympathise with that.
There is no war on our doorstep. No famine, nor dread epidemic.
We are not – yet – threatened with prison, simply for speaking our minds.
We have a roof over our heads. A garden, no matter how small.
Such important words, for humans.
And for all that we have and are able to be, I am grateful.
But I realise now that the Norse myths have a point. We may not be trees, but we share something profound.
Our roots may keep us settled, fed and growing. But their security is an illusion.