THE VOICE OF TREES

I stood at the bedroom window staring at the devastation caused by the previous night’s ice storm. My wife Patrice is going to be crushed when she see’s what happened during the night – Mother Nature at her fiercest. I heard Patrice stirring in bed.

“Glenn, It’s so early. Watcha looking at?” she asked sleepily.

“We had a pretty bad storm last night. It’s not good, hon. We lost some trees” I replied.

Patrice threw off the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, feet skimming the rug searching for discarded slippers. “Not Red. Please don’t say we lost Red.” Her voice was pleading as she spoke of the redwood sapling she planted 30 years ago when we first moved into our little farmhouse in Colorado. Over the years Red had grown to a majestic height, his branches reaching out to the sky as if in prayer.

I wanted to shout “Whatever you do, don’t open your eyes” but I knew I’d be asking her to do the impossible. Instead, I reached my hand out to my wife. Holding tightly onto my hand like a child learning how to walk, she took a few tentative steps toward the window. Patrice gasped loudly and she buried her face in her hands. Then the tears came. She cried inconsolably for what seemed an eternity. I held her and let her cry; this was not something carelessly brushed aside or easily forgotten.

Finally her sobs lessened and with a broken heart and a cracking voice she exclaimed “Poor Red! How I loved that beautiful old tree. Look at him now, laying there like a toppled monument.” Patrice yanked a few tissues from the box on our nightstand, dabbed her eyes and blew her nose.

“Oh Glenn, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I was being ridiculous. I can’t help it; I’m totally shattered.”

We sat on the bed side by side and I put a consoling arm around my wife’s trembling shoulders. I kissed her hair and spoke tenderly: “There’s no shame in mourning the loss of a tree. It’s not silly. It is, after all, a living thing. Does it feel pain when a leaf is plucked or a branch broken? Does it thirstily lap the rain after a dry spell? Does it feel your heartbeat as you rest a weary back against its old, sturdy trunk? Does it cry when cut down? How dare we presume that it does not. Some time ago, a round slice cut from the trunk of a fallen tree was placed on a record player, just like a vinyl LP; the rings of the tree were like the grooves in an album. When the stereo needle was placed on the tree rings and the volume turned up, the most beautiful and haunting sounds emerged – sounds only a living thing could make. Who are we to say a tree cannot feel? Yes, my love, it’s fitting to mourn.”

“Is that true, Glenn?”

“Yes! Come, listen.”

NAR © 2022

(Though the actual sliced pieces of the tree do not have qualities of sound in piano form, the converted record player analyzes the tree rings for their thickness, rate of growth and strength. It maps that data and outputs it as piano music through the stereo as captured here.)

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