Do Trees Dream?

In a strip 4 x 8, they pile the dirt.  And in the dirt they dig a hole.  And in the hole they put a tree.  It is a young tree, delicate limbs, thin bark, roots just beginning to spread. The box is split, the tree hauled out, and it is plopped in the ground with little care and less grace.  A tablet is tossed in, a splash of water, and the dirt is piled back around it.  On either side two stakes are pounded in, and wires trap it tightly in place.

But somehow, that tree manages to grow.  Though the soil is hard and barren, and the watering is inconsequential, somehow the branches reach a little higher for the sun, and the roots dig a little deeper towards the ground.

California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

Come spring, it catches a dream on the breeze.  From its prison, it dreams of wide open spaces, where its branches can grow, where the soil is rich and moist, where it is in the company of the ancient one, and its roots can intermingle like those of a lover.

The tree grows bigger, and somehow it survives while the others have fallen.  Its only company now are the cars on the street and the occasional dog who uses its lap as a toilet.    Even though a branch is mangled by a careless truck, still it grows – though now a little off balance.

The stakes are still there, the wire wrapped around the trunk, long forgotten.  And though once upon a time, they did their duty, holding the tree upright in buffeting winds, they now cut into the flesh of the ever expanding trunk.

Do trees cry, one wonders.  As this tree grows, as cell after cell pushes below the cells above it, the wires do not give.  And so it grows, until those wires are embedded so deeply we could not remove them if we wanted to.

And as the tree grows, so do its roots.  Having no place else to go, they sidle up and out, shifting dirt and cracking concrete, finding just a little relief.  ‘Aaaah,’ it must breathe in: some air, some room.  ‘Aaaah,’ it sighs again, stretching toes.

But the prison is meant to remain intact, and the men cannot have the tree leaving its limits.  And so one day they come with their saws blazing and their picks hammering, and they cut.  And they cut.  And they cut.

Do trees scream?  As their roots are slashed and their branches hacked.  As their bark is stripped, and their tops lopped.  Do they scream?

Or perhaps, in their agony they drift away to a better place.  Perhaps they dream: of a place high up on a mountain where the air is still clean.  Where the splash of the nearby stream soothes their parched souls.  Where the cooling of the temperature slows their blood and their leaves burst out in an explosion of color?  Where their branches are filled with birds and insects that build homes in their hair.  And when the breeze rifles thru their leaves, and a sweet shudder runs thru their limbs, do they quiver in delight?

Do trees dream?

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

About Marianne Simon

It was in 1999 that Marianne Simon left her cushy job with MGM to start her own landscape business, but, her love of nature goes way back. In fact, while most kids were making mud pies, Marianne was eating them. Since then, her choice of dining venues has changed, but not her affinity to the earth. She founded her Landscape Company, Poetic Plantings, with the vision of creating gardens that would nurture the spirit and nourish the earth. She received her certificate in Landscape Architecture from UCLA Extension and is a G3 (Green Gardens Group) Certified Sustainable Landscape Professional. She is also a proud member of Santa Monica's Sustainable Landscape Program, as well as having been nominated for Santa Monica's Sustainable Quality Award. These days her focus is educating and consulting for homeowners and professionals on watershed wise landscape practices. She also works with G3 creating curriculum, leading workshops, and developing workforce development programs.
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7 Responses to Do Trees Dream?

  1. Pingback: A Tree And Thee | G3 Green Gardens Group

  2. corey says:

    Thanks so much for your breathtaking act of compassion and empathy. In this story you show that humans do have an astonishing capacity to leap the boundaries our own minds have created! This is what I believe we are all called upon to do if we are too survive on this Earth.

  3. This is beautiful, Marianne. You touched me deeply with your images and your words.

  4. Tabby Biddle says:

    Wow! Powerful Marianne. Thank you for writing this empathic piece.

    “Do trees cry, one wonders.”

    “Do trees scream? As their roots are slashed and their branches hacked. As their bark is stripped, and their tops lopped. Do they scream?”

    Potent passages.

    Yes, I believe they do.

    “Do trees dream?”

    I hope they do.

  5. Emily Green says:

    What a lovely post and what a powerful way to point out that torturing trees is not urban greening.

  6. Betty Jo says:

    Thank you for posting about “captive” urban trees. I have long felt that what happens to trees is truly a crime–and I don’t mean that metaphorically. Near my home, the city cut down a street tree–I had climbed it once to stop the murder, but of course they came back when I had gone to work. When I returned they were chipping the last of the 40 year old tree. It was a roost tree for migrating white crown sparrows and each evening the neighborhood was seranaded with their good night song. What a loss to the neighborhood. This little town which will remain un-named here has long had a war on trees, yet they claim they “love” them. How to educate? Thank you, beautiful young landscaper from an older, not wiser, but more wrinkled landscaper!

    • thank you for posting. It is bad enough when the trees die from neglect, but then to add deliberate to the mix. Breaks your heart. And it boggles the mind that there is such a lack of understanding as to the consequences. Well, to us, we shall keep up the good fight.

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