online: 15 april 2004

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15 april 2004 up in a tree

Yesterday, and the day before, I had several times to go up and down a stairway next to which a tree has grown. Each time I was surprised and pleased to find myself high up in the branches, about 10 metres, something I've not experienced since childhood, and yet today safe from falling...

...buds, sprouting leaves, twigs and topmost branches - I see that moss grows on some of them... A heady feeling as I looked downwards, as if a bird. What is it like to live in the treetops and are we perhaps descended from people or other creatures who did so? I remember the favourable account of tree dwelling in The Lord of the Ringsand I think of the protestors who've lived in trees to prevent their being cut down. How soon does one adapt?

As I leaned out from the stairway I could see only branches and the spaces between them down to the ground and I felt detached for a moment from the continuous firmness and safety of living on the ground or in walled spaces within high buildings... and now I think of the fear of heights that afflicts some of us.

The concrete and steel stairway, with its right angles and hard surfaces, seems ugly and crude compared to those slim wavering branches, each gently and imperceptibly pumping water by osmosis to maintain their own living process - to catch sunlight while providing both flexibility and strength against winds, and the weight of snow. There is still a great gap between the simplicity and crudeness of artificial things and the complex and subtle forms of things naturally evolved with multiple purposes.

'What is the purpose of a tree?' It's too simple a question - it applies only to the things that we make. And now, with computers, we too can transcend it - if we let go of 'single vision'.

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