The Psychology of Trees: Part 1, the Rowan


Photo by Mr Xerty at Unsplash

I’ve got another update on Grad Bernart’s research notes. After his initial horror at the trees’ slaughter of one another, the grad seems to have come to terms with their violent natures and continued his study of tree language and behaviour. Here is an excerpt from his conclusions:

“At first, I thought the trees were utterly mad. The ash coppice seemed to be at perpetual war with itself; none of the poplars could utter a thought without a dozen others immediately parroting it; the old hornbeam acted like it was nothing short of possessed; and as for the oak and the holly, where do I even begin?

For a time, I doubted my translations. I thought this couldn’t be right, that I had made a mistake somewhere. With the passing weeks, however, it became clear that my music boxes were working and that I had deciphered everything correctly.

At that point, I thought that perhaps trees were simply so different from humans that meaningful dialogue between us might be impossible. The rowans, however, proved that supposition wrong. Or half-wrong, at least.

What can I say about the rowans? Shall I be polite and say that they are the most boring trees in the forest? Or shall I be honest and say that they are so simple- and single-minded that speaking to them is more tortuous than eating stinging nettles while hearing the little monsters scream in delight at the pain they inflict on me?

Every conversation with every rowan runs something like this:

Me: ‘Good morning, good rowan. How are you today?’

Rowan (in the deepest, most ominous voice it can muster, which isn’t saying much for such thin-limbed trees): ‘Have you seen any fairies?’

Me: ‘No, I can’t say I have. But what about you? Are you enjoying the sunshine? Is there anything you need?’

Rowan: ‘Fairies. Or witches. Witches will do if you don’t have any fairies. Bring them to me. Now.’

Me: ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t got any witches or fairies. How about some fertilizer? I’ve got some lovely bone meal here.’

Rowan: ‘Are you a witch? I think you might be a witch. Come closer and try some of my berries.’

Me: ‘No, I’m not a witch. But I’ve…’

Rowan: ‘I think you’re a witch. Try my berries. Eat as many as you can.’

Gah! They go on and on like that. I’ve heard it so many times, I can’t bear to write any more of it down. Some specimens are more subtle, some more threatening, but every last, blasted rowan is obsessed with fairies, spirits and witches to the exclusion of all other topics.

But, as tedious as talking to them was, that was the key. The absolute regularity of rowan conversations gave me a kind of base-line to fine-tune my music boxes and ensure my translations were correct.

I suppose I should be thankful to the rowans for that because, in comparison, the other trees are absolutely insane.”

That’s enough of the grad’s notes for now. Next week, I’ll continue with Bernart’s observations of the ash coppice and the poplar grove.

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