Wild Trees

I am re-reading a book called The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. It’s non-fiction about a group of people who study the high canopies of the tallest trees in the world. It’s about how they came together and learned to become ‘sky walkers’, to move through those trees and discover the amazing biodiversity found in those high canopies. I remember the first time reading it and being blown away by the realization that all these habitats exist high in the trees – everything from tiny wetlands to pockets of soil that support life like miniature parks no one has ever seen.

There is one story about these sky walkers hanging tree hammocks over three hundred feet in the air and sleeping up in the redwood canopy at night. One night they are caught in a storm with the wind bending the tree tops, sending their hammocks rocking. They talk about the sounds a tree makes at night in the wind. Not just the external sounds of branches whispering against each other, but the internal sounds of the heartwood.

Have you ever thought about a tree making sounds? It makes sense that it would. It’s a living organism after all. The wood bends and twists and moves and of course that would all make noise. But the author also talks about deep sounds almost below the level of human hearing.

I want that to be the heartwood, beating.

There are other books and articles about trees and how they form a habitat above and below ground. They talk about fungi that creates huge interconnecting pathways of roots that send nutrients to all trees in a grove or forest.

When you walk through a forest, there is so much life under your feet that you’re completely unaware of.

I know there are also books out there that anthropomorphize trees. That attribute human behavior or characteristics to trees. I’m skeptical of those. I don’t want them to be like humans. Plus I feel it’s a bit egotistical to think all life must mimic humanity.

I want trees to be a mystery unto themselves. Think about their lifespans. The redwoods in this book are two and three thousand years old. Not hundreds. Thousands. Think about what it must be like to live such a slow, slow life. All the rushing we do every day isn’t even a blip on a tree’s sense of time. If, of course, it even senses time and I’m not anthropomorphizing.

My sister, before she passed away, told me she could communicate with trees. She told me that the trees where I used to live were aware of me, sensed me, and trusted me. Whether that was true or not, I accepted that as one of the best gifts she gave me.

When I go by there now, I hope those trees remember me. Because I remember them, especially the ones I planted so very many years ago.

What She Used To Be

She used to see faces and magical creatures and wondrous shapes in shades of gray and white.

Now she just sees clouds.

She used to find the mystic in the woods.

Now she just sees trees.

She used to find the holy in the mountains.

Now she just sees stone.

She used to find the hallowed in music.

Now she just hears silence.

She used to see hope in the future.

Now she just sees the next step.

She used to find meaning in the past.

Now she just sees loss.

She used to find power in the stories.

Now she just sees words.

Being a Beautician

One of the results of COVID was letting my hairstyling license lapse. I only had one customer and I couldn’t safely be around her with her age and my inability to wear masks. It was kind of a relief because I never liked doing hair anyway. I was the only girl in beauty school who had never used a blow dryer or curling iron.

Back in the late 1970s there was a cusp between what hair salons had been and what they were becoming. Picture women in rollers under big hair dryers. Perms where the rods were connected by snake-like cables to a machine that cooked the hair (and sometimes caught on fire). And the transition to young men wearing their hair longer and not wanting to go to barbers anymore for crew cuts and flat tops.

That was my clientele – little old ladies with pin curls and finger waves and rollers. And young men who wanted their hair long and designs shaved into the sides, and tails. I didn’t have a clientele of women who styled their hair and highlighted it and got facials and manicures and their makeup done.

I couldn’t relate to those women somehow.

There was this one tiny, very old lady. Her hair was short and steel gray, except for an inch-wide white stripe she’d been born with that ran front to back down the center of her head. Instead of hiding it, she wore her hair curled up into the stripe to emphasize it. Can you imagine the kind of woman she was just from that one tiny piece of her personality?

Two elderly twin sisters came in together. Gladys died her hair carrot red and had so many stories to tell about her wild days and the mischief she still managed to find. She loved beer and hated her hot flashes and loved chatting up the young men waiting for haircuts. Her sister, on the other hand, rarely spoke and spent most of her time glowering at Gladys and shaking her head. She was the proper one, and when Gladys passed away she never got her hair done again. Can you imagine what they must have been like as young women?

I worked with a woman named Denise who wanted to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. But she didn’t want to rely on a man to help her if she dropped it. So she started bodybuilding in order to be able to lift the bike by herself. She ate raw liver at lunchtime and went on to compete in bodybuilding. And to own a Harley. I lost touch with her when she met a guy and they moved to Alaska to homestead. I imagine her tossing logs as they built a cabin.

There was a young woman who had been through a horrific trauma as a teenager and carried the scars hidden under her shirt, rarely shown to anyone. She was tall and lean and tattooed (shocking in the 1970s) and smoked and drank and had snakes for pets. She always carried a knife and said she would never, ever, be a victim again. One night after a Journey concert in Seattle, she and her boyfriend went in to a 7-11 store and ran in to Steve Perry playing the pinball machine. They played pinball for an hour or so and it was a story that always made her happy when she told it.

Oddly, there was a woman named Linda who told people I was psychic and could clear bad vibes in the air. I never knew where that came from.

I can cast spells on cats though.

I see this post is rambling and getting too long. Thinking about giving up that license and how much I really did not like doing hair, I realize now that the stories were what I actually did like.

How funny that it’s taken me so many years to realize something so obvious.