Contributed by seventeen nature-writers aged from nine years old to the prime of their lives, these are seventeen unique responses to the theme.
In part one, we hear from the trees themselves, from their pleas for consideration and hugs to their relationships with the animals which call them home.
The pieces in part two are lyrical celebrations of trees, from the intimacy and stillness of a skin to skin experience to a never still tree gliding through London.
And in part three, we travel out to visit a tree in California and then back to London in lockdown with a tantalising glimpse of hope for the future.
Finally, there’s a little about the writers who created these lovely pieces of Thumbnail Nature writing.
Amanda Tuke, curator and nature writer
Part one - This is what it would tell me
Hear my tale from birth to blossoming. Behold Edwardian Pleasure Garden gifted to the people. Carnivals, fun fairs, fireworks, drought, floods, hurricanes and riots still I silently stand. Tickled by squirrel, deafened by crow, surrounded by litter; elephantine roots, proud protuberances, gnarled trunk for I am tree - let me be!
You close your ears to the song of the wind. Tears stream down your soul and you taste them with bewilderment. Wouldn’t you listen to the bees, the trees, the little flower by the roadside? Don’t you know the pleasure, the feeling of being that awaits you?
To my future hugger - I've grown tall and dense to catch your eye. My sun kissed leaves are trembling expectantly and the relentless groan of my ever expanding trunk is summoning you closer for the deed, my long, deep roots already yearning, yielding under your tentatively approaching feet. Hug me! It's alright. It will be my first time too.
I am the reason the tweeting birds are eating and the emerald lichen grows. I make those soothing rustles that clear your mind from worries. I look after the sparrows, blue tits, robins and great tits that perch on my long, free branches. They make me proud. I am a tree with an ivy-entwined trunk. Naomi Style
I’ve outgrown my space. Careless human planning. I’m ashamed of my foreshortened limbs. I still have visitors, but have they lost respect, clambering all over me and plundering? Or am I just a staging post as they claw their way up my body before hurling themselves into next door’s garden?
I lean on the fence for support, neglected by the council. A squirrel A-road. In storms my brittle outer limbs fall, a confetti of grey-blue lichen. New wet dragonflies dry out. My bark a fast food fly-in for flocks of tits and squat wood pigeons shit-out purple my declining fruits.
Part two - the poetry of trees
My skin against your skin. Your inner body, my daylight home. As jackdaws call, sun sets. I leave the safety of your arms, twist wings within your fingers, echo calls within your boughs, as prey with powdered wings fly heaven bound through leaves dipped in summer dew.
The just-there-ness of you. Tender feet nestle in soft earth, ground embracing them. The heft of it all. Your fragile sprigs glisten in the day, and night, and day and night again. Ancient, ever-changing. Bridging the earth and air. Sadly I rarely see. All I see, is just a tree.
Renske van Vroonhoven
In winter the tree is changed. A ghostly thing, stripped of leaves, apples, marshmallow blossom, standing bare against the harsh weather. The bark is rough, grinding against your caressing hand. The only brightness is the emerald ivy, lush and healthy as it entwines. The tree is waiting, enduring, waiting, enduring.
The apple tree waved its leaves in entreaty. I glanced at the weed that sheltered in its shade. The fronds of the weed opened wide, as if to proclaim its innocence. But, slowly, the weed consumed the tree. Sipping its sap like wine. Weakening its grip on the earth.
Sails sweep the skies.
Sleek ships sigh,
Lone Londoner, land-locked,
Almost tastes sea breeze.
Surrounded by aspens,
LiLi K. Bright
Part three - from California to London
The graceful Cedar towering nearby is my quiet companion. Her draping bows, welcome the Steller’s Jays to take perch for a look around. The Gray Squirrels climb her sturdy trunk to reach cones to store for winter dining. I am thankful for this tree and this life she shares with me.
School-run silver birches. The last mango leaves clinging on at the half-way point of the advent calendar. Buds like birds’ feet. Spindly haze of twigs. Trunks plastic-smooth until they’re not, then a cratered moon and higher up, curled bark peelings like ashes in a fire. All from a tarmac base.
The soil here is rock, from one too many school trips, or city dwellers, whose drug-smoke drowns the sweet cedar oils. The brick-red, sometimes purple, bark is speckled with beads of sap and lace-doilies of cobwebs- but obscured, by turpentine and wood that is bright, and too new.
Arms around my birch, I tell my granddaughter I’m a tree-hugger. I know the silver-creased bark, every branch where collared doves settle, each root burrowed beneath our feet. The canopy dances, offering familiar glimpses of sky faded to gold. From the other side, my granddaughter reaches around, completes the circle.
Perched on the stoutest branch, the knowing crows observe me as I observe the tree. Intent to learn its mystery, I circle it. Rough-edged bark, slow-detaching leaves, snaking lichen, clinging moss combine to form a whole. Tree is not one but many, a gathering of life.
I didn’t notice you before, by the housing estate. In lockdown 1.0, your glorious snow crown fell like icing sugar dusted on a cake, replaced by summer’s cherries, plucked by passersby. Now you are threadbare, like a lonely man’s worn coat. But I see you. And spring will come.
About the writers
We are a group of happiness-blogging, butterfly-following, cake experimenting, scenery-gawping, circus-skills-instructing, afro-centring, plant-obsessing, herbal-tea-drinking, gender-questioning, many-gender-loving, wellbeing-nurturing, crocodilian-adoring, restorative-yoga-practising, meditating, singing-and-dancing, London-dwelling, bat-loving, bird-nurturing, folk music-playing, history-researching, mushroom-learning, berry-gathering, hope-nurturing, plot-intensifying, book-immersed, library-loving, hot chocolate-slurping, sandwich-devouring, apple-munching, birdsong-listening, detective story-worshipping, early morning-birdwatching, sunset-yearning, wild-swimming, tomato-stealing, olive-munching, violin-playing, chess-beating, nature-loving, penguin-hugging, animal-enthusiasting, ukulele-strumming, bird-flight-identifying, craft-making, housework-avoiding, garden-loving, hard-of-hearing, family-centred, book-obsessed, Philip-Pullman-obsessing, sweaty-dancefloor-dancing, viet-pho-slurping, sea-waves-swimming, good-vibes-providing, maniacal-vacuum-cleaning and sometimes-solitude-seeking writers.