Our lives are inextricably linked with trees. They give us food, shelter, warmth and tools. They are playgrounds for children and adults alike. Perhaps, most important of all, they are our planet’s lungs. In these days of climate emergency, we need trees more than ever. The challenge is how to help others notice them, reflect on what they do for us and – above all – to protect and nurture them.
One of the ways that we can do that is through art. Indeed, for as long we have been able to paint and write and make music, humans have looked to trees for inspiration and as a means of understanding our place in the natural world.
And that’s what this project – a partnership with writers’ group 26 and the Woodland Trust – is all about. It is a love letter to 52 remarkable trees; each a unique source of inspiration, given voice by 52 writers who have spent time amongst their branches and bark, roots and leaves.
The response to our original call was so overwhelming that we doubled the number of participants from our usual 26 and split our writers into two groups – Core and Explore. Our Core writers were then paired with a native UK tree and chosen to reflect their national coverage. Explore writers, meanwhile, were free to choose their subject. Many of the writers in this second group are part of our international membership, reminding us that trees matter the world over.
The form each writer was asked to use is the sestude. This is ‘26 in reflection – 62 words exactly’. Each sestude is also accompanied by a longer creative piece that tries to answer the question ‘What is the tree when it is no longer a tree?’
The answers may surprise you.