In The Heart of Trees

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

John Muir
Red dirt road through stands of tall eucalypts
Hilltop Road, Walpole. CC-BY-ND-2.0 Emma Gill

Last week I went to Walpole, Western Australia, to the Valley of the Giants. Known for the world’s largest-girth living eucalypts, the red tingle trees, I spent several days among the forest and coastline of this beautiful stretch of country with my family. And I can tell you that there is nothing like walking among trees to refresh and reset the soul.

As the 20th-century writer Khalil Gibran, said: “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

With that, I totally agree. The karri, marri, jarrah, and tingle trees of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, Mount Frankland, and beyond were stunning. Stretching to the blue canvas above, these eucalypts have tiny egg-shaped leaves that shine brightly in sunshine, or dappled in the dense canopy. Miniature blue wrens, flashy rosellas, and other sweet-songed birds flitted between boughs. Bees hummed on their way between springtime wildflowers. Quiet brown ferns uncurled like they had done for thousands of years. These forests occur nowhere else in the world.

This is the traditional land of the Menang people.

View over Walpole Inlet from John Rate Lookout. CC-BY-ND-2.0 Emma Gill

There’s something about walking old forests and connecting with nature that brings me peace, along with a deep appreciation for the wild. I felt like one of Tolkien’s Sindarin Elves, the race that loved trees so much they forsook the Undying Lands in favour of living always amongst the boughs of their forests.

And trees do feature widely in almost all fiction: from fantasy to horror, crime to historical fiction to women’s lit. All stories need a tree in them. Even if it is a lament to the loss of trees in cities, or marvelling at manmade homages in the form of skyscrapers. Blossoms falling from trees add romance or wistfulness to a scene; spikes driven into their sides add danger or adventure. Walking among the trees this week, I could almost taste inspiration in the air.

Burned-out hollow inside a living tree that stretches to the sky
Giant Tingle Tree, Walpole. CC-BY-ND-2.0 Emma Gill

Have you ever been inspired by a tree?

Can you imagine standing inside this incredible living organism? Imagine, who else has stood there marvelling before you? The Giant Tingle tree is at least 400 years old. Its buttressed roots are nowadays protected by a raised boardwalk, but what about fifty years ago? What about two-hundred and fifty?

What will these forests be like a hundred years from now?

Insecure writers support group logo of a lighthouse

This month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is asking the question: What do you consider the best characteristics of your favourite genre?

And I have to answer: trees!

In speculative fiction, we can imagine trees however we want – as walking, talking entities; as magical world-builders; as representatives of supernatural forces; as life-givers and hope-bringers; as homes, memories, dreams…people.

Trees are special.

When was the last time you recharged in nature?

View over the Frankland River Valley towards Nornalup.
CC-BY-ND-2.0 Emma Gill
Header image: view from Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout. Emma Gill CC-BY-ND-2.0

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets via blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. Thanks to October’s co-hosts, Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox. Check out the blog hop here.

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