“This isn’t the 1920s and people today have more respect for nature. Trees are not billboards designed to be written on, they’re living beings and you’d shouldn’t deface living beings. If you want to give yourself a tattoo, that’s your business, but tattooing someone else without their permission is just wrong! And tree carvings are tree tattoos.”
I recently visited Bayard Cutting Arboretum and the giant Weeping Beech tree, under whose branches there’s a boardwalk so we humans can walk around the base of this 130-year-old gentle giant and view her in all her magnificence … and all her tattoos.
She’s been defaced over the years with initials, names, words and hearts that beg the promise of love everlasting; a love which probably didn’t last as long as the scars on the tree will last. Permanent scars.
I spent some time with this tree this past week; this beautiful Weeping Beech; ironically named, for all the pain it’s felt with every knife carving into it. And yet, what I found was not anger, or victimization. What I found was a sadness and, something else; an immense honor in the scars it bears. As I placed my hand on this tree and listened, these were the words I imagined:
“Believe it or not, it got easier over the years to feel the sharp blade of someone or someones leaving a lasting legacy in my bark. Yes, at first, there was surprise, even horror, until I tried to understand them. I realized that those someones saw me as something capable of holding that legacy they probably didn’t even know they longed for; knowing that I’d live beyond them, carrying this moment in time far longer than any human could. I might even imagine that they believed other humans would come by and wonder ‘who carved this?’ or ‘who were these lovers, soulmates or was their love unrequited?’ I realized that they entrusted me to tell their story, or at least hold the mystery and wonder of their story. How sad that humans try so hard to be seen, known and heard! That their presence here on this planet isn’t enough for them. Too bad they couldn’t see this from the perspective of a tree; never moving from the spot on which I was seeded or planted and yet capable of dancing in the wind and being a home to the birds and other living beings! What more could these humans want?
I only wish they realized that I, too, was a living being, with a wish to create a legacy through my presence. That, while one carving might not be deep enough to allow pathogens in; that I’ll usually compartmentalize the wound and it will eventually heal over, that repeated carvings might allow an invasive fungus or microbe in; that leaving their legacy might end mine; that multiple carvings deface me to the point of unrecognizable bark until I am no longer a fine specimen of a Weeping Birch. I am now a fine specimen of human ignorance. And one ignorance leads to another; permission to carved something in me because someone, before you, did so already.
I hold hundreds of scars; tattoos; evidence of human ignorance and longing. I’ve survived. In fact, I live to be a teacher of these ignorant acts of humans; not with anger or resentment. You can see how strong I am; that I continue to grow in my one spot allotted me for life. I live to be a teacher of kindness and compassion. When someone places their hands on me today, there is a sweetness and gentleness to that touch. Sometimes, there is even an apology, a whisper, “Please forgive what they did to you”; oh-so-softly, so only I can hear it.
What more could a tree want in that moment?”
Linda Lombardo 11/30/2018
 The laidbackgardener.blog