Cambridge artist Debbie Baxter explains her special relationship with trees
We have some pretty powerful history with trees. In fact, you could say we have, as a species, evolved alongside trees.
But even trees have more claim to this planet than us, if longitude was the game we were playing.
Take the magnificent magnolia – existing on this beautiful planet 100 million years ago. It was propagated by beetles as bees had not yet evolved.
Then take the oak. Some have been known to live up to 1,000 years. Not only is its favourable wood strong and durable enough to sail the rough seas, but its powerful biodiversity is capable of supporting the life of several hundred species from birds to mammals, insects, fungus and microorganisms that make life possible.
Sure enough, even when this sovereign of a tree dies, its gifts to life still continue to cause species to thrive.
Take the beech: she was the first tree to receive the written word. Beech tablets were the ancient method of writing. Indeed, the word ‘book’ may come from the beech, making her go down in history as an emblem of education and knowledge.
But what do I know, I’m just a simple artist that loves to paint trees! I’m not a scientist or botanist but I do believe in the power of these magnificent arbores.
They for sure have many stories to tell and are often referred to in my creative world as “memory banks that store important information for our human selves”.
Well, that’s a very sweeping statement, I hear you say. I don’t see any security digits to get in and what knowledge exactly are you talking about?
Since painting trees from the moment I realised that pencils made marks, I felt I have had a special relationship with them.
My mother’s garden is in a small village, itself planted with many trees by her loving hands. It was completely surrounded by thick, endless woodland – and this woodland was my playground.
Filled with beech, birch, walnut and oak, I spent many an hour lost climbing and wandering freely along its many paths.
By the way, if the paths are good it’s normally a beech-strong forest. They really know how to space out beautifully.
Most of all, I remember the giant willow that lived by the stream. You could not reach your arms around its girth, it was so big.
It made me feel safe and held as I spent many a happy hour underneath its swaying curtain.
These trees all have meaning to me and I have found that the more I paint them, the more of its meaning somehow gets revealed to me – to the point where I have realised that certain trees are really supportive to some people, and each tree seems to represent a special kind of force.
You may already know this; you may already feel drawn to a certain tree or remember, like me, a certain happy memory of one.
To be clear, this is a very silent ‘thingy’. What else can you call it? It’s just a feeling with ‘no’ words. Just a good and happy healthy feeling when you’re near trees. That’s all you need.
No explanation, no analysing, just a peaceful quiet mind and all is well with the human spirit. Oh, and finding out what ‘tree species’ might be the perfect tree for you.
That could be fun to know... now I could help you with that. Think of it as a kind of emblem or ally to help you remember what perhaps you may have forgotten.
What have we forgotten, I hear you say? That we are beautifully and implicitly connected to nature and trees especially.
Let me help you remember, and I can certainly let you know which tree is ‘your’ tree.
Debbie's book, Into the Woods: A Celebration of Trees, is available now.