THE WONDER TREE
As we sat there, with silences and mhms between our pitches, it became clear that no design could exceed the greatness of what we had gathered around; a tree so battered, yet so perfectly sculpturous. Semi skinned, perhaps from a fight with lightning, tears of resin dripping from its large trunk, and a newer, yet dead, growth formed a thin silver chimney-like structure on top of it. We imagined the detail in which we’d explore a foreign planet, yet we stroll past these beautiful feats of nature with little appreciation. As R. Buckminster Fuller’s quote suggests - we are inclined to wonder about the other, forgetting to value our “little spaceship called Earth“.
How could we make the wanderers of the forest see what we had discovered? We started by isolating the tree. With a log, we circled the space around it with a radius of about two meters. We whisked away red and yellow leaves that had shed from neighbouring trees, creating a halo of young soil.
Further, how could we make the forest visitors slow down and stay for a while? Could we make chairs around it, inviting people to sit down and look up at our tree? Could we simulate a root system overground that reached far and led people to it? Finally we settled on the idea of creating a barrier; a respected area you would ask permission to enter. In there, you’d let the trees’ silence tell her story.
We picked up the almost-black, half-decayed logs that were scattered close to our tree. Stanley, our teams’ woodwork expert, directed the construction; “dig 12 holes as the face of a clock, a meter and a half between.” The tall and straighter logs would be placed vertically in these holes.
It only took about twenty centimeters of digging and a couple of manicures cracked, before we struck clay. As if it would have been gold, we simultaneously and with high pitchy excitement shouted: “We found clay!!”
In between the twelve vertical poles, we placed the remaining logs horizontally to form a foundation for our fence. We stabilized the logs with moss and our newfound material; clay.
Curious visitors stopped by, and we could see the desired effect already shaping. Some asking if they needed to take their shoes off to enter. The idea of undressing or dressing for the tree spurred; perhaps it should be a performance? A naked tree dance? No one volunteered.
Building on top of the log-made foundation, we gathered thinner branches that were deserted in the forest and used them as walls. In an ad-hoc way, we knitted them over and under each other - sewing them together in a large birds-nest like construction. A three-meter entrance was constructed by two of the longest branches we could source and bound together in a pear shape by baby roots at the top.
As we together knitted nature in this circled fence, we started to wonder. We wondered about each other. About the tree. Our history. Its history. Where are you from? How old are you? Why are you here?
The effect of keeping our hands just busy enough to stop ourselves from googling gave our mind the quiet it needed to wonder. It truly was a wonder-tree. Why not invite everyone that stopped by to experience the same meditative state it gave us? And so, we made a basket out of bark and roots, filled it with wonder-sticks, and placed it by the entrance. Everyone that came to visit the tree could pick up a wonder-stick, enter, wonder, and knit the stick into its surrounding fence.
From the clay, Ian made a small sculpture in the image of our tree. A miniature version. Just like a tourist visiting Firenze might take home a small replica of the Davide statue, a lucky guest could take home this memorabilia and keep it as a reminder of nature-made wonders. Dwarfed by the tree itself, the miniature was yet another reminder of the tree’s superiority to anything we could create.
On our last trip in the search for branches, we stumbled upon some deserted dragon-looking roots. We collected them and installed them in front of the entrance as a sort of gateway. The left one finished in a perfect little dip, where we hung a small bottle of hand sanitiser (safety first!). We decorated the entrance and our two guardian dragons with fresh ferns and made a rake to keep the floor clean in a hōkime fashion.
Stanley had come back from a long walkabout, bringing us a new fantastic material; flint. He was in the making of a beautiful spear decorated with circle engravings when we got the news that an amateur forest keeper was on the hunt for us. With a little panic and sorrow, we tore our perfected construction apart before he could find us.
Despite the clear instructions on the brief to leave no trace, we had hoped our project could stay for just a little bit. We wanted it to carry out the mission we had created for it; to make people wonder.
The structure we had spent two days building, came down within minutes. As the crown-like fence crumbled, and the tree stood apparent in its quiet glory - we were again struck by its beauty.
With evidence of forest under our boots and nails, we got on the tube headed to the city. Outside the windows, trees changed to wood, stone to glass, water to controlled fountain ornaments.
Tomorrow we would again wake up to the reflection of blue screen light on our faces, spin around in a habitat where absolutely everything is controlled, but our tree will stand there, not fenced, but wild and free - like she should be.