“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”
– John Muir
Is there any one of us who hasn’t, like Maria from The Sound of Music, ‘climbed a tree and scraped a knee?’ Or swung from a rope tied to a sturdy branch? Or tried to build a tree-house? Or collected conkers? Or looked tree-wards to listen to birdsong?
Trees are all around us and there’s not much that they don’t give us – or our planet. They help our climate by removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Under their protective canopy animals and plants thrive. They help combat erosion. From time immemorial they have given us shelter and shade. Timber to build our homes. To build ships for fishing and exploring. Wood for the fires to cook our food and to keep us warm. And think of all the fruit trees that give us nourishing, healthy food.
Trees can outlive any other living thing. Ancient and wise, patient and long-suffering, they have inspired awe and reverence. Like springs and pools they have long been regarded as sacred. Myths and legends have grown up around them. Folklore is full of them.
In the Bible God plants The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. In Norse mythology Yggdrasil, the cosmic tree, sends its roots and branches off to other worlds. In many cultures trees are believed to have their own individual spirits. For centuries they have inspired the works of poets and writers: even today appearing as characters in films, as any of us who have watched The Lord of The Rings trilogy will know!
The landscape of Scotland has changed many times. The fortunes of our trees and forests have waxed and waned. And there’s no doubt that there have been times when Scotland’s forests and woodlands have indeed suffered at the hands of John Muir’s fools!
Today, however, more and more of us understand the need for a vision for our forested landscapes. Attitudes have changed and work is now underway to actively protect, extend and restore our forests. And thankfully we have greater freedom to enjoy them than ever before.
They fuel our imaginations. They bring us pleasure. They bring us health, peace and relaxation. They are ours to enjoy and to protect and to grow. Go find a nearby forest – or even a single tree – and discover just how much our trees have to offer!