A Passion for Trees: Judi Dench

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The lovely cedar tree — not one I see often in the near South, but one that “roots” me of my Pacific Northwest roots for their abundance in not only the general landscape but my yard growing up. Most of my childhood memories are set in my mind as either sunny or rainy, most likely an effect of the climate, but not in short-part due to growing-up experiences — suffice it to say, there was never a drought.

But the cedar, not the tallest among the trees but most assuredly one of the sturdiest for its pliability, reliable scent, little berries that can drunken birds into flying into windows and of course, their mid-tones of green. I’ve just read and only seen thus far the new BBC One program featuring Dame Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees. In the clip making its way around social media, Dame Judi shares a bit about the program and her six acre garden; the show will lead viewers into the life of trees — what is going on underground, under their bark and what looks to be, some super-cool scientific/electronic renderings. Oh to have that technology at my fingertips.

For me, several years of high school horticulture netted some interesting results. We had barely a quarter-acre, but it boasted a row of these lovely cedars as a barrier to our busy road along with several 50-plus foot Douglas Firs. Our cedars were of the Western Red variety, which adds a brickish-red undertone to the multi-hued green needles. During the holidays, I could mass produce projects for class within a five-minute jaunt outside. Need a wreath? Pop out to the yard. Building a yule log? Pop out to the yard. An aged holly bush in addition to this mini-forest of evergreens added the holiday red adornment that every wreath-buyer wants. Now, I’d incline away from this as I favor the layering of the shades of green as I miss it so in my current deciduous landscape.

What strikes me about Dame Judi’s show from its clips is the focus on the life of trees — for me this life, while distinct from human, cannot be removed from human experience. Trees serve our memories in ways that I believe, we cannot yet fully imagine — the cedar is constant for my sunny-side memories: first romp in the yard alone, the feeling of freedom and confidence to nestle alone in the woods, as a profit-making partner, as a solace when nothing else was right in the world. I hope the program will explore the joint existence of human and tree — we all know that nature provides the buoy to health, but the absolute necessity of the bond, is worth exploration.

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