Tree Whisperers

 (for COP26 climate conference in Glasgow 2021)      by   Country Boy

 Back in 2020 I learned two new nuggets of precious knowledge about nature – specifically about trees. This was during the first COVID-19 lock-down in early July 2020. I had just whiled away a 14-day sentence of self-isolation after my ‘smart’phone told me it had been in nearby contact with someone who’d been ill with that pesky virus.

 After 2 weeks in my room with iPlayer & iPad for my main company, a couple of the more interesting things I’d learned now were that : -

[- 'by placing a sound-sensitive microphone against the bark of a tree-trunk we can hear the rush of the water that a tree sucks up from the earth.' – that’s from a BBC Countryfile item titled ‘Weird & Wonderful’, broadcast in July 2020 ]

     And secondly

[- 'Fungi are the original world wide web ! They have a network that runs under entire forests.   It enables trees to communicate and help each other if they get into trouble or distress' – [That’s from an online TED-talk by Suzanne Simard  titled How trees talk to each other  ]

Well, in fact I didn't really believe either of those claims when I first saw and heard them on the BBC iPlayer and TED-talks. But out of curiosity ... one cooling late evening in July I went cycling along the Back Lane to the village Upper Green with my 'sound-recording' kitbag in my backpack. I was heading for the Old Oak Tree.

 Well … (spoiler alert !) you know I wouldn't be telling you this story if my Ross pro microphone had failed to work, or the tree had stayed silent.   But in fact – I didn't hear any rush of tree-drinking water … BUT what I did hear was wa-a-ay more interesting and important than water-flowing, I can tell you now.                                

- - - At first when I donned my headphones and held the mic to the bark of the old Oak I heard … well, what I thought was the rumble of a combine harvester in the field of Skyfall wheat. But then I knew they wouldn't be harvesting till Autumn. The sound was like a low bass hum with a smattering of clicks from time to time. And then there was a shriek like the high whistle of a kite and a knock-knock-knocking like a woodpecker 

                                 [h ♪ m m s h ♪ r i e k ♪ ]


It was only when I thought to attach the pro-mic to my smartphone and record the sounds – for later forensic investigation by the Countryfile team (ha ha!)   - that I (half-seriously) asked 'Alexa, please - - run this through Google-Translate - I was taking a long shot on this unknown but earthy language. 

<WHAM> It took quite a few seconds for me to grasp what happened then. Yes, there were deep sonorous booming sounds – actual words – but very un-Alexa, coming through the phone’s voice-recorder. It sounded more like how I imagine a whale might speak in English. Yep those words were in English, and what puzzled me just at that moment was

< Puzzle #1 : How the heck did Alexa know how to make sense of .. tree-whispering ? >

< Puzzle #2 however was even more intriguing and immediate.   WHAT was this old Oak tree saying, if indeed it was 'he' or 'she' or even they ? Well of course you might now know what they were saying 'cos it was recorded on my phone and it's now been picked-up by some of the media news-feeds.

 So, why don't I first give you the real transcript of the recording, and then I'll try to give you my take on what's actually going on here ?   OK with that ?

       'Alexa please replay the tree-speech ….       Right,   so the mother Oak was actually sending out a repeating call that night to her fellow-trees in the Hertfordshire hinterland where I live.  She's saying more or less the tree-equivalent of 


 transcription :      'all adult trees ... we must gather our feelings … and speak our minds before the winter season of darker days comes in. We must think on what these times mean for all of our tree-kind. The human two-leg movers have become much less bold in these latter days and are seldom seen in any numbers. The four-foot rollers have almost disappeared –tho’ two-rollers multiply, and the air itself is much much less poisonous and the skies almost clear again.   We must agree – Oak and Elm, Ash and Fir, Chestnut and Willow . . . and all who live by the purity of the air and the health of the water that flows through our roots.' 

     'The human-kind depend upon us, to replenish the air that they breathe.   Yet much that they do seems to endanger our very existence. Without us and all the trees and flowers and fauna   their race would wither and grow hungry and die.' 

     'And now it seems that they indeed face the danger of dying out - like the Elms who died of the Dutch disease   or like you, the Ash, facing the die-back. The humans now suffer a disease that spreads invisibly.   I ask you, all of the global plant and tree-family : must we help the human-family to survive or should we take their demise as our time of release and prosperity ?'  o  o  o  o  o  >

 And that message still tree-casts out repeatedly from the Old Oak – along the tentacles of the fungi-based ‘tree-world wide web’ ….. Well,   I know what message I would take from that and I would send to the COP26 Climate-change conference in Glasgow this year   - would it be too much to expect a global recognition by all leaders and their countries of the co-dependencies we have with the natural world? Show it the respect which we owe it !

A new sympathetic co-operation with nature will be vital – that’s as plain to see as the home-screen on your phone.     Which,   oh ! brings us back to that Puzzle # 1!   Remember >> 

< Puzzle #1 – how come Alexa could actually Google-translate the tree-speak if she'd never heard it before now, eh ?     Or had she heard it before ?   And what's the plan now _____? >

                                        Why don’t’cha ask Google ? 

PostScript : If you visit Kew Gardens by the River Thames, near London there is a Eucalyptus tree to which the Kew gardeners have attached a microphone. Go, ask for a listen … and tell me what you think

   © Copyright   Gerry Murphy  - THACS Writers Online 2021 


entire audio of this story is available here  >>>