Trees – Woods and Western Civilisation by Richard Hayman
“…the forest provides the setting for chance encounters that take the protagonists away from their everyday lives. Woodland is the gateway to a parallel reality of the underworld, but it is also a refuge where the real world is held in limbo.”
“Woods are poised between reality and imagination…”
It establishes not so much a physical as a psychological space structured by the need for whatever is not found within the compass of ordinary life.
A Tolkien forest is therefore a mixture of personal memory and cultivated myth.
His livelihood depended on an urban readership that expected to find the peace and simplicity in nature that they could not find in their own lives, and in many case whose reading was a substitute for actual experience.
In the Rose Acre Papers, a collection of essays published in 1904, he described a wood in the dead of winter in a highly wrought manner typical of its author: “a bleak day in February, when the trees moan as if they cover a tomb, the tomb of the voices, the thrones and dominations, of summer past.”
Ruskin: “[A tree] … is always telling us about the past, never about the future.”
The roots of a tree are in the earth and its branches reach up to the sky, so a tree is “the animation of the dust and the living soul of the sunshine.”
Intercourse with nature, it follows, is a way to revisit experiences without fear of contradiction or interruption.
Woodland was the ideal place in which to lose oneself in order to find oneself.
…a forgotten landscape that had a past but no present.
[woods are a place] where the real world is held in limbo.
Like the classical texts, the forest provides the setting for chance encounters that take protagonists from their everyday lives.
The theme of the forest as the threshold to the otherworld is amplified by mediaeval romances, where woody places are the landscape of adventure and self-discovery.
Such unbroken stretches of woodland were places where, as Wordsworth put it in his Guide to the District of the Lakes, we can only imagine ‘the primeval woods shedding and renewing their leaves with no human eye to notice or human heart to regret or welcome the change.’ Hoskins was thrilled by the prospect of being able to see the natural world ‘through the eyes of men who died three or four thousand years ago.’