Friday, July 06, 2007

Tree people

My long-suffering father has quickly come to realise that any walk he takes with me these days is likely to be punctuated by multiple stops for photographs.

In fact, he has taken to spotting and pointing out photographic opportunities for me.

A recent walk around Greenwich Park was considerably stretched by discovery of some of the tree people who live there.

My mind has been playing around with the possibility of writing something about this identification - recognition? - of the personal in the world around us. Its often seen as child-like (childish?), don't you think, to invest the world with personal attributes and characteristics?

Susan Griffin gives examples from story-telling (Goldlilocks, Thumbelina... ) and notes that "when we hear in the Navaho chant of the mountain that a grown man sits and smokes with bears and follows directions given to him by squirrels, we are surprised. We had thought only little girls spoke with animals." (Women & Nature, The Women's Press 1984 - i will try to find and add the page no. later)

I have some interesting debates with students about whether or not animals are "persons". Do they have self-awareness, consciousness, rights, expectations? Its a matter of hotly contested debate at the moment and there is some fascinating writing on this.

Some would say that we wrongly project human characteristics onto animals - that they don't have a subjective life/being like our own - or, that we can never know whether they do or not. But how much difference is there, really, between the ways we interact with animals - getting to know them, responding to (interpreting) their behaviour - and the ways we interact with each other?

And I think it has to do partly with whether or not we feel at home in our world. And whether we think that emotional and imaginative responses to it are as important and valid (as much as - if not more than) as "rational" "objective" responses.

These are some of the things i would have written about if I could have been bothered. But its a bit worky, don't you think?

So here are some more friendly [and otherwise] tree people for you become acquainted with.


Wendz said...

It's very whimsical and makes me think of the Faraway Tree. I like it.

And no it wouldn't be worky - only to you because it's your work, but not to us. It'd be interesting.

Shelly Lowenkopf said...

How does one describe the flash of enthusiasm that envelops the psyche when one sees a subject for examination in an unexpected place? How to describe the primal joy of noting the miracle embedded within the ordinary? One sure way is to post an illustrated essay on Tree People.

Worky? I vote no on that measure. Far from worky, it is the yelp of enthusiasm, the unrestrained joy at discovering the gift that has been left, the unexpected discovery of a treasure map.

My own Tree People are noisier and not so well imagined as yours; they are a family of squirrels who act out All in the Family on the stump of a tree some six feet from my bedroom window, a constant chatter of conflicting agendas as they compete with blue jays and mourning doves for seeds and peanuts left for them by

Yr. Obt srvnt

Mike M said...

These are some great pictures!! Not only because you took them, but because dad was walking with you. That is the greatest picture of them all!

All Blog Spots said...

nice blog

Lynne said...

Love your tree people! I like the double chin on the second tree, great profile!

I am always seeing people in trees and mushroom. Glad to know that someone else does too!

call me betty said...

I love the snooty expression on #5 and #8 looks as tho he has just been awakened from a deep sleep.

An Ent perhaps?? :-)

Gary said...

The pictures are quite fantastic. Isn't it amazing what we can see if we open our minds to the possibilities. I love things like this.

tut-tut said...

I wonder if you had left us to our own devices whether we would have seen the people in the trees . . .

And if anyone has truly looked into a dog or cat's eyes, they cannot deny the personality and soul within. As a matter of fact, my male cat's name is Soul.

Cream said...

I see Jesus! Photo just below the long (very interesting) paragraph.

He looks a bit like the Madonna with the Fallen Boobies...

Lettie, I shall never climb a tree again without thinking of your sexy trunks....

Pod said...

these are great. especially the first pic after your last piece of writing. she looks thoroughly fed up. such a face!

we only project our own characteristics onto non-humans, coz that is all we know, and that is the only way we can make sense of it, through our own emotions.

just this morning i was lying in bed listening to the birds, and wondering if they would sound as nice if i actually knew what they were saying. maybe they are hurling abuse at teach other, or us?? who knows?

i think it is arrogant of us to think that we are 'superior' in terms of emotion/consciousness to animals. for many reasons really. there are endless examples of acts of kindness/empathy etc displayed by animals to each other or to humans. when i was in nz, a group of surf lifesavers that got set adrift were circled by two sharks. a pod of dolphin came and chased the sharks off, and circled the human beans until they were safe. dolphins have been shown to grieve also. bernard, my adopted old doggie, knew that something was wrong with his human father before anyone else did, and sat by him for days. i could go on and on, but it is saturday morning, and i can't stop eating raspberry jam on toast with russian caravan tea.

help me somebody!!

(ps. i mean just look at the sneaky guineas...)

herhimnbryn said...

Wonderful images and great that your Dad 'looks' with you.

To think all those tree people are in Greenwich park, just waiting to have their pictures taken.

Ex-Shammickite said...

There'a a face in the pine tree just ouside my window... I look at him when I'm having breakfast and wonder what he's thinking about.
He doesn't look very happy.
Perhaps he's pining?

lettuce said...

i'm so glad you like these - once started, i couldn't stop, i have at least 30+ pics.....

yes Wendz, the fab faraway tree!

we don't get squirrels in our garden Shelly, but lots of very quarrelsome sparrows and goldfinches. And the starlings are most rude.

yes mike. :o)

ta, abs.

i knew some of you would identify Lynne. mushroom people sound interesting too

Betty its very Entish that one, isn't it?

thanks Gary. Theres looking and theres looking, isn't there?

TT I agree. To be a bit worky again, John Berger has written quite a bit about the way we look at animals and aware that they are looking back at us... and how significant that is.

So Cream, you found these sexy? hmmmmm......

yes Pod, i agree, def. Thats a great story about the dolphins and sharks. I think you'd like The Philosophers Dog by Raymond Gaita - a mixture of story telling and philosophy about this subject. Russian Caravan tea. Sounds exotic.
Oh! I've just remembered - in my dream last night, our gp was doing cartwheels!

hello herhimbryn, i've seen you before on someone's blog... hmmm...
yes, i definately had the feeling they were just waiting for me.

pining, shammie? haha. Will you take a pic for me?

Pod said...

cartwheels? with glee? or smuggly? was it showing off? i think it's time to acknowledge the GPs are of utmost significance. we should delve deeper.....

love to loo seat stilgoe

have fun!

lettuce said...

i don't remember glee or smugness - it was rather matter-of-fact. and (with the exception of a couple of stumbles) rather expertly.

Dizzy said...

Some seem happy,
Some sappy

Others long
Others bare

Some noseless
Some grotesque
Some aloft and not even there.

Interesting blog, and photo's.

Do they have self-awareness, consciousness, rights, expectations??? I think it is all down to energy levels and that we (everything, humans, animals trees, everything) are different forms of energy. Some interact with other species openly and others don't.

Dizzy said...

ps, for when your bored!! Have a look at this.


muddy red shoes said...

wow, great tree people, look at my blog, we are bothe being i-tree-geed (?) by wood!

Pod said...

non-chalantness in guineas...?
most worrying.

what are they up to?

lettuce said...

yes Dizzy - and after all, all "matter" is energy anyway, isn't it? great poem too :o) Will check out your link

hi M.R.S. i-tree-geed? in-tri-gued!!! i'll be right over!

nonchalant - thats just the word pod! and what a great word it is. "sang froid" - thats quite good too.

lunchonthe beach said...

What if they are real people trapped in the trees because they did something wrong ages ago ?.Then they end up as Ikea flat pack furniture.
Shit I am going to be a better person in future..............

call me betty said...

What's wrong with being trapped in a tree? You get to enjoy all the lovely sunshine, little birds sing tweet tweet in your branches, you get to make beautiful flowers and yummy fruit.
And dogs pee on your feet.
OK, I get your point! :-)

Reya Mellicker said...

Children have not yet been brainwashed out of their ability to relate to the natural world. Oh what fabulous pics! I'm sure you can imagine how much I love every one of them! Wow!!

I could write a whole post about how relating to the natural world has nothing to do with thinking that trees or squirrels speak in human tongues or think human thoughts. The trans-species communication I have with my dog, for instance, is that much more informative because he ISN'T a human.

You should see me cringe when people call me Jake's "mother." I am NOT a dog, did NOT give birth to a dog. Jake is my familiar, an animal companion, familial, but definitely of a different species. As are the trees.

One more thing (I'm in a mood to talk today) - at one witch camp, in a group trance, we realized that the tree is the interspecies version of God, the God of animals, the final phase of the vegetable world, so its God as well. As for us humans, we use crosses and trees of life and family trees all the time. We, too, recognize their divine form and great wisdom, long lives.

Please make me stop now!! Maybe I'll come back and comment some more after work ....


la bellina mammina said...

that sounds like GAP and me....I have taken to pointing out interesting stuff for him to shoot (photos of course). I'm gonna show GAP these photos - he'll love them!

natural attrill said...

'And he named them treeple....'

Mark said...

Hi lettuce,
Just to let you know i have nominated you for a Schmoozer...

Cheers Mark

lettuce said...

LOL LotB. now, who are you i wonder.....?

Betty- ;op

hey Reya - i DID think you'd like it!! yes, i agree - all that tree - meaning,significance, symbolism etc. - trees are uniquely special

hope he liked them Bella

"Treeoke" - haha Toby, thats GREAT - thankyou.

ooo thanks Mark! (whats a schmoozer.... must pop over the see)

Steve said...

Wow - I feel like I haven't been paying attention to trees! Are there so many tree people in any given park? Just amazing.

I like how you wrote about your hesitancy to write about this, while managing to write about it at the same time. :)

ja.mes said...

i love these photos. the trashy beach is so poignant, something about destructive crashes and the continual process of washing/wiping the beach/slate clean.