The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

21 May 2010

Nature of Imagination

We are so fond of being out among nature, because it has no opinions about us. -Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

There's nothing more inspiring than nature. Ask Frost, Walden, Thoreau... even Nietzsche (who I otherwise abhor). Whenever I need to recharge, I take a walk in the twelve acre park right across the street from where I live. There's a million breathtaking sights every day, whether it's a field of crows hunting insects in the green grass at dawn or a sky full of fruit bats soaring across an orange sunset.

As a writer, or maybe because I'm an imaginative person, I tend to anthropomorphize. Give me a teddy bear and I automatically assign him a personality (a beanie bear I got for my anniversary inspired a series of picture books for my niece). I do this with trees too. I have about six or seven favorites I pay a visit to when walking through the park or on my way to work. I don't call them "George" or share my day or anything, but I acknowledge their existence. Sort of a casual nod to acquaintances. There are wise-looking ones, beautifully shaped picture postcard-worthy ones, ones that hold a birds' nest every year, one the possum climbs at night, a long branch where a line of fruit bats dangle... So many trees, so many personalities.

Then last week I was on my way to work and ran across a scene like this:

A massive tree I'd often admired was suddenly on the ground in cedar red chunks and piles of sawdust. The workman were still sawing as I watched open-mouthed. It felt as though I'd stumbled on a murder scene. George!

I wanted to do something, but it was too late. And it's not like you can report arboricide to the police. I know there are reasons to chop a tree down--power lines, too close to a building, etc--but this made no sense. It was a waste. I mourned him for days.

I lost another tree friend last year, which was an even bigger shock at the time. He'd been around forever, and I thought he'd last forever. I take these things too hard. It would be easier to stop anthropomorphizing, but I can't. Instead, I gaze on my favorites a bit longer now, touch their bark, and imprint them to memory...and I buy more ebooks. Anything to save the lives of a few leafy friends.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. - William Blake (1757-1827)

And don't forget to Green Your Blog !

Did you? It's easy, and the tree they plant for you just might be named George!


  1. I love the imagination you have. A walk, especially through the woods where I live, is always inspiring.

    With George's passing, think of him as being a desk for a young inspired student who will one day write a masterpiece.

    Have a great weekend.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Anthropomorphizing everything around you can make for a hard life. My husband used to buy me teddies. He's stopped now... can't stand the competition. But seriously, I love trees and hate to see any being cut down. Recently we had to have two large trees removed from our garden because they were old and dangerous. We've planted replacements but it's not the same. I loved those trees.

  3. Oh, poor tree! We had a famously old Dutch Oak out near a historical site near the Oregon Trail in Kansas, and when it was struck by lightning it was one of the saddest things. So many memories in that tree!

  4. Oh, your story tears at my heart--trees keep us grounded and when one goes down we all lose.

  5. I LOVE trees. It always makes me so sad when I see them getting cut down. I think our city is about to adopt some tougher restrictions for developers here...

  6. Mason--I like that! George's remains going to bookshelves and writing desks...

    Rosalind--I don't get any more teddies either! The crowd on my shelf was growing too big, but I imagine they enjoy each others company : )

    It is hard to see old trees go. The young ones just don't seem to have a personality yet.

    Portia--Sounds like an amazing tree! At least it went out in a blaze of glory.

    Conda--Trees are the best for our hearts and imaginations, not to mention our lungs! I notice the air is so much fresher in the park, and my spirits higher.

    Elizabeth--I think tougher restrictions benefit the architecture as well. I've seen a few places where builders worked around an old existing tree, and it lends a splendor to the buildings that you just can't get from newly planted saplings.

  7. I had them plant a George for me too.

    I hate seeing trees cut down. I think of them as friends too. Such a shame.

  8. What beautiful pictures! Well, except for the demise of George. Nature always inspires me, even when everything else fails.

  9. Jemi--I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees trees that way. I saw your green post a while back (good for you!), but I'm a slacker and it took George's demise to goad me into doing mine.

    Heather--"Even when everything else fails" is so true. No matter how glum or angry I feel, nature takes it all away and leaves a childish sense of wonder in its place.

  10. That's really, really sad. Though I don't anthromorphize trees and animals, I do appreciate and like them. Whenever an old tree or a small clearing is cut down, I always feel saddened by the loss. Nature is such a beautiful thing that humans are too liberally destroying.

  11. Just stumbled upon your blog and love your post! I was recently remarking how I am inspired by the ocean and the sensory images it conjures for me...but after reading your post, I may just opt for a walk in the park instead today!

  12. I've just blogged about the Carbon Neutral issue and have included a link to your website. Thanks for the idea.

  13. Sandy--I think almost all of us feel that connection to nature and loss when it's gone. How could we not? It's our home more than the cities and artificial constructions of civilization.

    Johanna--So glad you found your way here! I just peeked at your blog and saw lots of posts I'm keen to read. I write with my husband too, and we're both fascinated by psychology as well. It explains SO much about all that crazy human behavior.

    Rosalind--That's great! I'm going over to check it out.

  14. I know what you mean. The other day I was driving home from work, and I saw the strangest site, although it had nothing to do with nature. A portable butcher shop on wheels pulled up next to me. At first I thought it was just another truck until I realized the puddle of water under the truck wasn't water, it was blood! The truck was a freaky thing to behold and every time it stopped more spillage from inside seaped out, leaving a trail of blood and gore. I don't write horror, but that truck almost made me want to.

  15. Ben--A portable butcher's shop? Yuck! Definitely a good scene for a horror story. There's nothing more disturbing than stumbling across something like that in an otherwise ordinary setting.