Bathing in Trees

I believe the Japanese have given a walk in the forest the meaningful term of “forest bathing.”

As we’ve always had dogs, for the last 30 years I’ve walked, strolled, and, when I feel particularly energetic, even run through our local forest, up to the open fields about 2 or 3 times a day. Now  it’s nice too know I’ve actually been forest bathing all this time .

In the midst of this mass of trees growing imperceptibly in girth and height over the last 3 decades, a few individuals have become familiar to me to the extent of my naming them. I’ve trudged amongst them in all weathers, in winter squelching and slipping on the thick leafed carpet, in summer kicking up dust and flies from a dry, baked path.

Siegfried Bassoon, a tree whose spooky hollow moans resound when the winds are playing, which is especially unnerving when daylight is fading. Perhaps the old pollarded tree was once intended to provide some natural fencing but the woodsman has long since gone, his intentions still visible many decades later, the distorted growth winning over his attempts to control nature.

Siegfried Bassoon: charcoal, 60 x 50

The one I call Clive’s tree, because it reminds me of the sort of tree my friend and polymath artist would design, a twisted, hollow tree from a gothic horror tale, with many sightless eyes in faces yawning from its barren branches. 

Clive’s tree, charcoal on paper 60×50

The contorted, gnarled old apple tree, a remnant from a bygone orchard, every year its starbursts of mistletoe increase in numbers, resembling an opera singer clad in feather boas as she sings out a soundless aria.

Diva, charcoal on paper, 60×50

The 3 sisters : sweet chestnut trees who seem to dance in unison.

The coppiced sweet chestnut trees forming the main forest have a protective phalanx of oaks lining the pathways as though on guard, all wearing uniform stockings of luscious green moss……that’s my next drawing, and hopefully I’ll get some paints out, watch this space….

26 thoughts on “Bathing in Trees

  1. Dear Lizzie, your tree drawings are beautiful. So spirited and lively. I didn’t know – or perhaps had forgotten – that you’d named one for me. You chose well, because ancient and crooked apple trees full of holes and barely holding on to life are right up my street. I long ago grew to love such things when I saw them rendered so wonderfully in ink and watercolour by Arthur Rackham. As for the marvellously named Siegried Bassoon, while I can’t say that any of our own old trees sing out in the manner you describe when the winds hit, the wood behind Ty Isaf is a positive orchestra when the winds are roaring through it, and the howling, creaking, pistol-shots and groans are both impressive and terrifying, especially when added to to the spectacle of the trees thrashing wildly. This month the winds have been fierce. We’ve lost several specimens and have been rescuing others. A beautiful four year old Monterey Pine was upended because its roots weren’t up to holding it securely in the waterlogged ground, and so now it’s held upright in an impressive scaffolding of stout stakes, its bark protected from scrapes by secure lagging. We think it’ll have to remain this way for the next few years in order to give a fighting chance. When you plant trees you become so emotionally attached to them. We planted a sapling Walnut when we arrived here nearly fourteen years ago, a gift from our friend Catriona Urquhart. It was a sad little thing back then, too long confined in a pot and with its tap-root nearly rotted away. Today it stands a sturdy twenty feet high with an impressively spreading crown. Where once I cradled it, a sickly stick in a pot, now I snooze under it in fine weather, its trunk supporting my back and its canopy a leafy shade from the sun. It’s become not Catriona’s Tree, but just Catriona, and I never pass it without thinking of her. Sending love to you both from a windy west Wales.

    • What wonderful descriptions! I’ve been wondering how you were getting on in the awful weather over there, thankfully you do have a forest behind you which will stop any landslides occurring. Sorry to hear you’ve lost some trees though, and well done saving others, with weather like that we are truly in the lap of the gods. I dare say Catriona’s tree is responding to the loving thoughts surrounding her.
      With love from hot and sunny FrancexxxxL ( I know you don’t want to know that!)

  2. Delightful — as ever — Liz. You have a wonderful way with words and should write a self-illustrated autobiography. We’d definitely buy a copy.

    J and O

  3. Oh Lizzie, you have poetry and art running through your veins in such abundance. What great characters all the trees are and how alive is the way you’ve drawn them.
    We’re spending February in Portugal so we have constant sun like you. I feel so lucky. xxx

  4. Hi Liz, This, of course, is brilliant!! just what would be wonderful as part of an exhibition – I see I have a lot of catching up to do!!! But we are going for a walk in the forest day and I will take my camera. No pressure, lots of time to decide.

    love your blog, lots of inspiration. I am thinking of forest floors, edge of forest, macro details of mosses etc. so lots going on in my head. Whatever we do I can still use it so I didn’t want to you to feel any pressure.

    Have a lovely sunny day. Hope the work is going well.

    • Hi Judy, I’m glad it has stimulated the juices! yes the inspiration is there most definitely, it will be a great theme for our exhibition, with our diverse disciplines it should be an interesting show: jewellery, textiles, photography and painting…..actually a ceramic artist wouldn’t go amiss, we must investigate that. xxL

  5. Oh Liz such a wonderful description of those saviours, the world should pay more attention to. Here in Rotterdam, to often, trees are cut down for new bricks and for ‘cleaner’ gardens….I don’t understand at all how people can think that way.
    Spring is coming indeed, on the way to my studio I noticed many beginnings of blossoms, beautiful, and yet it feels weird with the autumn-like weather beating on us with storms filled rain and hail.

    But how lovely to receive your post an read your elegant words with wonderful drawings, I see it in my mind eye and, yes I long for those surroundings. But also for you my dear.
    29th of February I have an opening in Dordrecht, a small village near to Rotterdam.
    I am making a huge installation (will send pics) and Fien will perform in it! (will send video)
    hugs and kissis and lovelovelove! for the three of you (your xmas card shows your sweet gipsy every day, still)

    • How lovely to hear from you dear Marie-Claire, especially when you’re so busy prior to an opening. Wishing you the very best of lucks, and bon courage to Fien, bless her, she will be a star! Looking forward to seeing the pics.xxx to you and Paul xxxL

  6. I have got my new computer from Max so I am back in business! I am sure I know some of these trees, is it possible? I saw a good Echappees Belles programe on the TV about the Jura which is mostly dense forest. It was superb mostly for its peace and quiet which is rather lacking on the Basque coast. ! However, Alec and I had a wonderful walk at Bidarray last week, an inland village surrounded by mountains and that restored my faith in the Pays basque.
    In the Jura someone has set up holidays where you can go and be shown how to commune with the trees; It was lovely to watch, the trees were enormously tall and beautiful and the people so small. Now I want to go there for my next holiday, of course. Hope to see you soon; lots of love sue xxxxx

    • Hi Sue, yes I’m sure you must recognise the trees as they’re in the forest where we have always walked the dogs when you come to stay. As regards discovering the Jura I’m sure there can’t be any part of France you don’t yet know, but maybe the forest there will be new to you! Hope to see you soon, love to you both XxL

  7. Liz, this is just wonderful. Please do the “luscious moss” — and lichen. You take me to trees I love, the old gnarled chestnut on our walks here and the tall oaks and poplars I grew up with. You have a book and it needs to be published. If I can help, I will in a heartbeat. I miss you and we’ll get that date worked out!

    • Hi Nancy, glad you enjoyed the post. Yes I will do the luscious moss and lichen, if not for me then for you! We who live amongst the Dordogne forests are so lucky they are on our doorsteps, we can just step out of our houses and bathe in the trees whenever we wish. See you soon I hope XxL

  8. As I look out of my window, here on our exposed hill top, I see our much loved trees being battered by the howling winds and merciless rain that now seem to be an almost permanent feature in our part of the world: it’s a bleak view at the moment, but reading your beautiful words and admiring your truly lovely drawings has briefly transported me to ancient woodland, the peaceful effect of gentle sound and dappled light in warmer climes. How lovely!

    • Dear Charlie, so lovely to hear from you, I’m picturing you there in your beautiful hilltop home, hopefully at least there’s no flooding…..? well if ever you want a break we’re always here! A quick weekend hop over and the forest awaits you xxxL

  9. What beautiful drawings Liz, and accompanying descriptions add a human connection.
    Trees do have personalities, you’ve’ portrayed that so well.
    Spring is a good time to be out drawing hope you do lots more.

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