Or maybe that’s not quite right. I’ve always held conversation with trees. I’ve done so since I was a child and the habit has followed me into adulthood.
And I know I’m not alone. I can tell when I see someone walking…their bodies moving in an ineffable way, heads titled as if listening. I can tell that they are in conversation with trees, too.
It’s not something you advertise widely or list on your CV, this inclination to chat with spring buds or debate with November branches. It conjures up ridicule and the mortification of being labeled a “tree-hugger.” Even so, many of us do it, perhaps most of us without knowing or noticing it.
In Perdita, Marged Brice also converses with trees. Dumped off in a nursing home on the remote Bruce Peninsula and claiming to be 134 years old, Marged must trust trees. Weakened by age and left isolated on the third floor, she asks a skeptical historian for a character reference.
“What would your trees say about you?” she demands of Garth Hellyer. “Would your trees tell me to trust you?”
The light is so strong from Marged’s eyes, that Garth almost winces. “Oh, I think my trees would give me a good reference,” he replies, surprised at how easily the answer comes to him.
I’ve sometimes wondered if someone should caution Marged Brice. Are all trees equally trustworthy? How can she be so sure that they don’t gossip? How do I know that an elm doesn’t share my thoughts with the cypress, or that the sugar maple won’t betray a confidence to the gray birch?
Marged laughs. “Your secrets are always safe with cedars and white pines,” she tells me.
I resolve to remember this for my next arboreal tête-à-tête—strongly suspecting that I’ll forget once the conversation gets going.