Thursday’s Children March 7, 2013

Inspired by Trees…

A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them. Join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them. Join us!

There’s no question that I was a tree-worshiping pagan in a former life. Willows, oaks and birches are my favorites. Throughout my life, individual trees have held special significance for me.

First there was the mighty pine tree which supported my childhood tree-house — a double-trunked monster with its bristled head in the clouds and its scaly dragon claws dug into the ground. Its sticky golden blood was virtually impossible to remove from human skin, and somehow I always got some on me. Dirt and pine needles adhered to my skin with the power of super-glue.

Then there was the decayed weeping willow tree in the Boston Public Garden, whose hollow trunk provided privacy and shelter during a super-steamy kiss one drizzly autumn evening. Fond memories of that willow inspired us to get married under a different willow tree two Halloweens later.

Boston Public Garden

During a trying time in my life I made a weekly pilgrimage to a particular oak tree. It lived in a nature reserve on the New Hampshire seacoast. Its gnarled branches and twisted trunk had endured the harsh elements for well over a century. I’d lay my hands on it and close my eyes and try to absorb stillness and strength. That actually works, you should try it sometime. Okay, secret’s out, I’m a tree-worhiping pagan in this life too. Sssshhhh...

One day a few years later, I was working in the yard. A young woman stopped her car and got out. She asked if she could come see our willow tree. The willow was a stately specimen and completely dominated our side yard. As it turned out, her father had planted the tree to mark her birth. She didn’t care to see the house where she’d lived as a child, but she really wanted to visit “her” tree because it was an important part of her story.

Sometimes inspiration can be found literally, in my own front yard.


The slender birch on the left leans against the sturdier one. The larger tree’s dark branch embraces the paler one’s trunk and the embrace itself has actually wounded them both. The scar tissue binds them closer still. (Why yes, I AM mad for metaphors). Their branches mingle as they reach for the sky. Their roots are tangled, like lovers’ legs, under the blanket of snow and earth.

I love this tree couple. They provided inspiration for my first book, in which spirits from the 17th century try to fulfill their thwarted passions through my modern day main characters. Two trees that begin as individuals have hidden interwoven roots. Eventually they meet and become irreversibly joined. They will grow, and eventually die, together.

Do you like trees? Any particular kind? Is there a tree which holds special significance for you?

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38 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children March 7, 2013

  1. This is a beautiful post as I love trees too. (Maybe we were druids in a past life) When my husband and I first starting looking to buy a house, my only requirement was that the yard have trees. We have oaks and maples and dogwoods, but my favorite is a massive mulberry tree that’s probably one hundred years old. Our freezer is stocked with its berries. When we move to Florida I’ll miss it, but the palm trees will comfort me 🙂

  2. This is a very lovely post, Rhiann. I don’t have a thing for trees, though I’ve always found whomping willows very intriguing. Yes, I know they aren’t real. I suppose weeping willows are magnificent, too. ;D

    • The whomping willows were fun – but so unwillowlike really. The willow trees in TENDRIL whisper about troubadours and the Court of Love in Aquitaine – or at least my MC thinks they do 🙂

  3. I love trees. We have a massive old birch tree on our property that has old initials carved in it. English legend is that prayers said under a beech tree go straight to the heavens and I often will go stand under that tree when I need to send words out into the universe.

    I also named my gelding, Druid Oak, because all of the beautiful live oaks in my hometown in Alabama. Such a gorgeous, majestic tree.

    Lovely post, I love the story of the woman stopping by your house.

  4. I love trees too. And so many hold memories too. A stand of (NZ) native Kauri trees on our farm became the Kauri Kingdom and I built a whole family saga based on the grouping of those trees.

    I can see why those birches really inspired you – they are quite beautiful!

  5. Who knew trees had so much conflict? LOL.

    I find them mysterious. They are alive, and yet they don’t talk. They have needs, and yet they don’t move. They’re surrounded by things that help them, but things that want to hurt them too. I wonder what sort of tales an old tree could tell those willing to listen?

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I know how long trees can stay with you. Ten years ago last October, my wife and I were on our way home from a vacation stay on Mackinac Island (in northern Lake Huron). On a whim, we pulled off the freeway to visit Hartwick Pines State Park, in Grayling, MI. I’d heard the park was one of the largest remaining stands of old growth ‘Cork’ pine (large white pines with their branches and needles high, fighting for light above the forest canopy–so named because the logs floated high in the rivers on the way to the sawmill. Most of the state’s lower peninsula was once covered in this type of forest, before we logged it out in the mid-1800s).

    It was unseasonably cold, windy and cloudy. We had the whole park to ourselves. We walked the trail into the valley of old growth, mareling at the open fern-covered forest floor, the tight canopy 50 plus feet above us, some trees soaring to over 150 feet. Suddenly it started to snow–large gorgeous flakes finding their way below the canopy. We were entranced. It was so quiet… Until we heard it–the trees started to sing. The high needles catching in the wind made the most mournfully gorgeous music. I was really breathtaking.

    We walk daily through a stand of white pines at the top of a dune near Lake Michigan, and I love the song the 60 foot pines sing there. But it’s like comparing a high school choir to a chorus of angels when I recall that day at Hartwick.

    Thanks for reminding me, Rhiann. Very inspiring!

    • See, now I hope John gets to read about your experience because clearly trees DO communicate. I’ve been in some inspiring and breathtaking cathedrals and in places with standing stones (including Stonehenge) – they were awesome, but still don’t bring me as close to the divine as Nature does.

      • Vaughn, that was beautiful and I love Hartwick Pines State Park. It’s breathtaking – as was your description.

  7. I love trees. My novel is filled with them and the most prominent is an Oak pair who have wintered much hardship for the sake of my MCs. The first literary tree I ever fell in love with was from My Side Of The Mountain. I wanted so badly to live in that hollow like the boy in the story. All these years later, my own version is a nod to that sense of wonder the author evoked.

    How in the world did you get a pine to support a tree house? It must have been huge. I can see you, sticky and covered in pollen and tree dirt. Lol. That sap is like tar. 😛

    I love your beautiful writing and inspiring thoughts, my friend. ❤

  8. I love trees. One of my earliest tree memories is a school outing in which we used some kind of paper to get a rubbing of tree bark. It’s an experience I’ve always wanted to repeat but never have. The closest I’ve come to fulfilling this desire is the creation of a small Book of Trees I began drawing to accompany my story.

    Beautiful post, Rhiann, love this: Their roots are tangled, like lovers’ legs, under the blanket of snow and earth.

    (I, too, am afraid of monkeys. It’s fathomless to me why people want them for pets.)

    • Tree bark is quite fascinating. Beech trees are so smooth, and pines so rough. And how hard is it to resist peeling off birch bark? I bet your Book of Trees is really cool. Glad I’m not the only monkey-phobic 😉

  9. This post was so cool, it really reminded me of when I was younger. I was raised to love trees and nature by my parents. Every fall equinox we went to a little grove of trees on our property to say our thanks to the Green Man. When I was little, I didn’t even know that it wasn’t what people did on the equinox, but I loved it. It always made me feel calm. Willow trees are my absolute favorite. I think its because when I was younger, my cousins, sisters, and I would play this game where we were all transported into a fantasy realm and we used the long tendrils for weapons, armor, and especially crowns. Why yes, we were the coolest kids in the middle of the cornfield 🙂 Thanks for such a fun post!

    • Ah yes, the Green Man, a fascinating character indeed! I love that your parents did that sort of thing with you. Humans have become so disconnected from Nature – and that is the root (pun intended) of so many modern day problems.

  10. Trees are actually very important in my current WIP! Especially the dead ones in the forests 😉 Great post! Since I’m lucky enough to have a park AND a forest outside my window, including trees in my MS does make a lot of sense. Great post Rhiann!

  11. I love this post, and I’m a fellow tree girl. 🙂 I love willows – particularly the giant ones on my grandmother’s farm. I’d play under them all the time when I was little. The biggest one of all was struck by lightning right after she died. There’s now a small sapling growing from the center of the old, charred stump.

    We also have a beautiful blue spruce in our front yard that we call “Zane’s Tree.” We planted it on what would have been my nephew’s first birthday. Nearly fifteen years later, it’s huge and its presence still comforts whenever I see it.

    I also have a huge fondness for oak, rowan and birch trees. They always seem to be whispering secrets.

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