Facing my fear of fallen trees in the forest

Some of my fears are fairly rational, others less so, but out of all of them – water (en masse, not a tinkle from the shower), spiders (including pictures of them), small enclosed spaces – my fear of fallen trees is perhaps the weirdest.

Now, give me a standing tree and I’m happy as Larry. In fact, I love trees. I think they’re beautiful, majestic beings, like other-worldly sentries standing guard over our little earth, protecting us little humans from the monsters and ghoulies of beyond. Ok, I’m getting carried away, but you get the point – I love trees. However, a fallen tree is quite a different beast.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about a fallen tree that creeps me out; it could be a number of things. The violence of being ripped out of the earth when downed by a ferocious wind – that scares me. There seems to be something so wrong and unnatural when I see those roots clawing at the air, exposed and naked of the earth that they once lived in. There’s also the many branches, once climbing skyward, now spread out across the ground like spindly fingers. Again, the word ‘clawing’ comes to mind (with a shudder). Perhaps it’s the disturbing sight of something so grand and powerful now lying lifeless, like when you see an elephant on TV that has been killed for its tusks and is lying there with two meaty flaps, this once majestic creature never to get to its feet ever again.

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I know, I’m getting poetical, but it’s a feeling that I can’t quite describe accurately enough with words alone. I want you to see the pictures I see, the images. Then maybe you will understand. Of course, you may not at all, and find it rather amusing that I could find a dead tree threatening when there are plenty of real threats out there in the world.

The other day I went for a walk in Epping Forest, which is about 15 minutes’ walk from my house, and after a lovely little wander through the scattered leaves I came across a fallen tree. Normally I would skirt such a spectacle, taking the long way round, but on this occasion I was feeling brave and oddly serene, so I inched closer for a better look. It had either fallen recently, or else some of the roots were still bringing in nutrients from the ground, as its leaves were still green. There may be another explanation for this, but I don’t know enough about dendrology to say.

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The photos here are from my exploration of the tree. I spent about half an hour with the tree, at first daring myself to get that bit nearer, stepping closer and closer, getting to know my new forest companion. Yes, it all sounds a bit hippy, but I expect you actors out there will understand. If all we have as an actor is a body in time and space, I guess I was exploring both here – space, with my body in relation to the tree’s (I would normally purposefully create a large space between us, but here I was exploring what happened and how I felt if I reduced that space to the point of being in contact with the tree), and time, as I encountered the tree as it was dying.

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One of the pictures shows the tag which the tree bore. Looking around in the forest, I saw that many of the trees bore these (possibly all, but I hadn’t investigated further to check). Seeing the tag of that fallen tree lying there amidst its companions, a sudden saddening image flashed into my head of a prisoner in a concentration camp having died, with nothing but a number to identify them. Prisoner no.18495 has fallen! I felt the other trees standing nearby look on and mourn their fallen comrade. If this all sounds a bit like the wacky backy, I make no apologies for a vivid and active imagination, and warn you that there will be many more posts of this nature to come. Drama school is opening up my heart, my mind and my body, and awakening my senses and my spirit to the intricacies of the world around me – an absolutely crucial process for any actor.

 

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