on trees

When a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?

When a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?

Anybody hear the forest fall?

 (Bruce Cockburn, 1988)

As a teenager I didn’t think much of the teachers trying to prepare me for what was coming. I wasn’t very interested and their efforts to teach me stuff have pretty much (which means some things stuck) all gone to waste. (The irony is that I’m teacher myself now.)

A lot of my high school years are long forgotten, but some memories remained through the years. One of them is Bruce Cockburn. I’m not sure if it’s because of the endless, childish fun we had with his name or the catchy chorus of his committed song. Our religion teacher, a bit of an odd fella, one day appeared with it in class and probably tried to explain us the seriousness of the situation. And today when the chorus crosses my mind I still see the relevance of it.
(I have the same feeling when I hear: Masters Of War by Bob Dylan.)

Travelling is about creating strong memories and lasting impressions. One of those places that had a huge impact on me lies in the northeast of Poland, near the Belarusian border.

A few weeks ago, we spend some time in Białowieska, home of the last European primeval forests. Some of the areas are untouched for hundreds of years or even longer, which results in a forest like I never saw before. The variety of trees, plants, birds, insects and mammals is unbelievable. It is the perfect ecosystem where everything is in harmony as it should be. These forests have no ‘function’, they have the extremely rare opportunity to simply ’be’. Unlike most of our Belgian forests or should we call them occasional groups of trees nowadays?

The only time the trees hear a chainsaw, is when a tree fell down on a trail and they have to make a passage. The wood is never removed because it is still valuable to the forest. Dozens of fungi, mushrooms, herbs and insects make it their habitat, small rodents eat the insects and raise their families in and around the ancient log, owls and other predators lurk around the place in search for a tasty bite and decades later, when only humus remains, the trunk forms the perfect spot for future forest giants. It’s an amazing place and a real treat for those who like true, unspoilt nature.

The impact of such a pure and pristine forest on the human body and mind is indescribable. It makes you happy, calm, humble, feeling healthy, aware, mindful,… Those things we try to find in a yoga studio, meditation sessions, silent retreats, gym, at therapists and what more, you simply get for free between trees.

I believe that spending time in nature is essential for our well being as a human.

One (with the emphasis on one) of the solutions against global warming is planting 1 500 000 000 trees which are able to absorb the carbon dioxide that we produce and, very important, those trees should be left alone. It’s an easy solution with huge effects on our future lives and on that of all other living creatures.

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copy by Jan Bergs
pictures by Katrien de Troch, Studio Gloria

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