This month I’ve been thinking about what it means for my tree to be part of an urban street. Looking back at my previous ‘tree following’ posts I realise I tend to separate out the life of the tree – and of the ‘natural’ creatures that interact with it, such as birds and plants – from the lives of the humans who live here.
When I took the photographs for last month’s post I was even annoyed that the neighbours had some work going on and there was an open van ‘intruding’ on the pictures.
Then I put the link to that post on Facebook and a couple of former neighbours who have since moved away commented on how much they missed the tree, and other silver birches in the gardens around here. One said how pleased she was that she could just see ‘the bird’.
Obviously this isn’t a real bird. It’s a model woodpecker that was stuck up there a few years ago and was something to do with number 6, who were playing some kind of game with the people who then lived at number 1. The game involved placing plastic gnomes in each others’ gardens and finished soon after number 1 put an eight-foot high fibreglass model of Father Christmas in a flowerbed at number 6. (Things are not always this exciting in our street.)
The comments on Facebook made me realise this tree cannot be understood apart from its setting. I was wrong to be annoyed about the van in last month’s picture. Yes it would be nice if there were fewer vehicles in our road – and everywhere else! – but to want to airbrush them out is to be guilty of the kind of thinking that separates humans from ‘nature’, and that approach is rarely helpful.
Instead we need to be much more aware of where the overlaps and shared stories are, and of the important ways in which all the life in this street, from the human to the microscopic, is connected.
This post is part of Lucy Corrander’s excellent tree following project on her blog Loose and Leafy. I especially liked her post this month. Be sure to listen to the tree ‘talking’ at the end.