Are people made from trees?

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…

From the 17th century Icelandic manuscript AM 738 4to, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

From the 17th century Icelandic manuscript AM 738 4to, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

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.

Mischievus, shape-shiftin Loki also from an Icelandic manuscript (via Wikipedia, creative commons)

Mischievous, shape-shifting Loki from an Icelandic manuscript












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.

A sliver of moon over the front of our house, the trees on the right inhabit the golf course and these weeping birches are probably my favourites.

A sliver of moon over the front of our house, the trees on the right inhabit the golf course

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.

These trees live in the ‘rough’. A thin strip of land, outside our fence, that separates us from the men (and occasional women) out hitting balls with sticks.P1020891

Amid the weeds and brambles, the pretty fox, Shy Reynardine, basks on a sunny afternoon.

The pine tree branches quiver, even on the stillest day, as red squirrels spring to the peanut feeder, meant for the little birds.img_0572



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’.

Images copyright David Hockney as published in the Daily Mail Online (sorry) - he was going to paint the trees through the  seasons and had done summer and winter.

Images copyright David Hockney as published in the Daily Mail Online (sorry) – he was going to paint the trees through the seasons and had done summer and winter.


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.

We have.

We are.

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.


This was the view from my study(that's the balcony above, jutting our from our dining room) last autumn on the first frosty day of winter. There wasn't a breath of wind and suddenly the leaves started falling, straight down, in a golden shower. It put me in mind of Zeus and Danae so I hope there wasn't a maiden sitting beneath them as they fell ;-) I'm sure the gaps the felling has now left will look better in spring when the leaves awaken. I hope.

This was the view from my study (that’s the balcony above, it juts out from our dining room) last autumn on the first frosty day. There wasn’t a breath of wind but suddenly the leaves started falling, straight down, in a golden shower. It put me in mind of Zeus and Danae so I hope there wasn’t a maiden sitting beneath them as they landed 😉 I’m sure the gaps the felling has now left (I can’t bear to take a picture) will look better in spring when the leaves awaken. I hope. In spring hope is eternal isn’t it, or something like that? 😉


This entry was posted in Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Are people made from trees?

  1. Thel says:

    Sorry to hear. I wonder why the trees were cut down to begin with? Were they touching electrical power lines?
    Wishing you clear skies, amazing cloud formations and brilliant sunrises and sunsets.


  2. Liz ferguson says:

    Sorry always bad to see trees go ,they take such a long time to grow ! Love your photo .


  3. Oh No. I feel bereft along with you. It is ever frustrating that we have little or no say on neighbouring trees. And people trot out trite excuses for unthinking behaviour. When they really mean I’m pruning these trees within an inch of their life… cutting these trees down…. Just Because That’s What I’ve Always Done I have No Idea What To Do Otherwise I Don’t Care. Plain ignorance is annoying enough regardless of the situation…
    But, for me, trees are our companions, practically we utilise them for shelter, like practically we have dogs for protection and cats to control unwanted rodents although they become more than that, we all belong together and to the place we share. Our energies mesh. People who don’t look and feel deeper than their superficial lives don’t understand it.
    There’s not much we can do about what our neighbours’ do… My only suggestion to plant your own trees adjacent, on your own property. We cultivate & value our trees and green habitat. One lot of neighbours consider our garden overgrown, unwise from a security perspective as the greenery obscures fence lines & windows… To us it’s private and sheltering. And none of their business. It works both ways.
    On a happier note… I love the pics of the fox and squirrel ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Our energies mesh’ oh so true Dale. Thanks for this, so good to hear from a kindred spirit… and l love your latest images, will pop by to comment. Yes, the fox is beautiful and sleek, the squirrel just mesmerising – its little fingers clasping the bowl are pale pink and remind me of two rubbery dolls I had as a child – I bit some of the fingers off them but don’t worry don’t plan to attack the squirrels! I’d love to plant trees but our garden is really too small – when we bought this house we decided it was fine because we had this fabulous extended garden all around us… We have grown plenty of lush shrubs at the back and espaliered two pear trees though. And possibly might plant an additional tree or two at the front – we have a small but growing yew, cherry and plum already. I’ll be honest, if the weeping birches at the front go (they are on golf course land) I will be beside myself – they are like graceful prima ballerinas. Enough. Thank you for popping in.


  4. This makes me sick. Just sick. I couldn’t understand why until I read back and the “golf course” actually went in. Managed plan? Would be interesting to see what they intend – not much to manage left. You’d think they’d want to keep the trees to screen the residents nearby from golf balls and noise…like being a good neighbor.
    I always like the thought of becoming a tree at the end of life.
    (and we def love that fox and squirrel)

    Liked by 1 person

    • My dad always said he wanted to be buried in an apple crate at the bottom of the garden so he could feed a tree. My mum had him cremated 😦
      Our loss is nowhere near as bad as David Hockney’s but it still smarts. It’s the not knowing when it might happen again to more trees.
      Thanks for understanding – and yes, golf course. I should have known.


  5. Miz B says:

    Poor Husk! I sympathize. Some years ago the the power company in our area came through with chainsaws and devastated trees along streets in older neighborhoods with beautiful, grand trees. The masacre was brutal, hacking huge gaps through branches around apparently delicate electrical wires. Some trees were so thoroughly “trimmed” they died slowly. People were outraged and hounded public and power company officials The power company defended themselves by pointing out that the trees were on the public right-of-way, and they were authorized to protect public safety. They said their maintenance crews had many areas to cover throughout the region and didn’t “have time” for more aesthetic trimming. “You’ll thank us when the storms come and your power stays on.” Maybe. IF, indeed, the power would have gone out. But, instead, every day we looked out the window or drove down a street over which the boughs used to arch, we wept. Lawsuits claiming damage to property values and noise from public officials did persuade the company to be a bit less brutal with their trimming. Perhaps lawyers are Loki’s adopted children. [Sigh.] I very much like enjoyed your essay.


    • Oh that’s appalling! How dreadful! There has been some cutting down of trees by our local council here but I do think they are ones that are genuinely at risk – one fell over in recent gales and the thing was barely rooted and we have an ash disease travelling through the country apparently. But sometimes I feel they are just being over sensitive to risk. I remember when the first cable company was ripping up pavements (footpaths) and installing the cables – there was a lot of protest and anger as trees vanished without warning – a big campaign got them to behave somewhat better. Loki’s children – yes, good idea, this will be come my go-to explanation for incomprehensibly awful people from now on! Thank you for your sympathy and for reading – and liking what you read!


  6. jilldennison says:

    I love trees too, and your story made me sad. I live in a townhouse that is part of an apartment complex, so yard maintenance is contracted out by the management. Last fall, I heard a chainsaw one morning as I was going about my house chores, and when I looked out the window, there was a groundskeeper sawing down a small tree in my neighbor’s yard. By now, you know me well enough to know that when I am passionate about something, I act first and think later 🙂 Well, I flew out the front door, stomped over and got right in the man’s face and said “just what the hell do you think you are doing?” Needless to say, he looked at me as if I was some lunatic escaped from the local hospital, then tried to calmly tell me that the tree was diseased. It wasn’t, as far as I could tell, and I lost the battle, and came back in the house shaking with rage … and then I sat down and cried for the little tree. So yes, I understand completely. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thanks Jill. I’m so glad these people here – friends – feel like I do about them – I can’t bear to see them savaged unnecessarily. One of the trees they left behind has been so distressed by the trees around it that are now gone it has a very peculiar shape, which is also visually upsetting – it creates a tension that wasn’t there before. No doubt spring will improve the view. But as you discovered with the tree in a yard that’s not ‘yours’ – we have no control over these things which we love – it’s stressful. (Like humans!) And we don’t need another stress – especially now – do we? Thanks for the sympathetic reading. I don’t want to disrupt your important work keeping the feet of the mighty to the fire. Keep well and keep writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Like you I find certain trees can be inspirational. We get used to having them around and they become like old friends, a familiar pattern in our busy lives and objects of grace and beauty. It is sad when they have to go.


    • Sad indeed. But I take solace in the fact that the jays have been burying acorns and they’ve been growing, one day, I hope, to be great oaks. So much for the golf club’s plan. Nature’s guerilla gardeners!


  8. seer1969 says:

    In answer to your questioning title, no we aren’t, we are mostly made of micro-organisms apparently; I recentyly learned that human cells make up aprox. half a leg’s worth [from the knee down], the rest of ‘us’ is micro-organisms, often called parasites, which both depend on us for their environment, and, along with all species, affect their environment. They manage digestion and many other bodily processes, and have evolved together with us. We are their world!
    But agree wholeheartedly about trees and their loss is always a sadness and usually the result of crass human fixations. There is a law against felling any trees without first going through the process, so it may be a good idea to invcestigate if they have permission, rather than a plan. It must be the Environment Agency’s responsibility?
    I also found out recently that oaks emit a chemical which lowers human blood pressure, so their benefits to us are not just visual. And even a mighty oak has shallow roots which form a platform the tree sits on just below the surface, rather than the deep roots many imagine they must have; the width of the root mass equals the branches, but root depth is much less than the tree’s height.


    • My goodness, thank you for that. I am glad to hear oaks are more than just a pretty shape. I especially love their leaves. I also like that jays bury thousands of the acorns each winter and obviously don’t eat them all by spring! I should check out the legality, you are right. I think the trunk has to be a certain diameter – but since the area outside the fence is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) as is much of the coastal strip here, I have to hope they are indeed following rules not just plans. And I’m not sure I like being home to parasites – but just a name change makes it all right – microrganisms it is! It puts me in mind of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when you say we are their world – like Earth being the white mice’s test lab! Thanks for reading and commenting Oh Seer! 🙂


      • seer1969 says:

        I have an oak which fills the garden with leaves. Sweeping them up one day I had just got to the end, with a big pile ready for the compost heap, when suddenly, without a breathe of wind, hundreds of leaves began to fall, it was like a snowstorm, and in a minute I and the path were covered. Felt like the tree playing a joke. Why would hundreds if leaves suddenly detach without central command saying so, when normally they drift down one at a time? Or was it was the fairies!


  9. Pingback: The Edge. Part I | MEMOIRS OF A HUSK

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