Words and Photography by Sam Hardwick
Trees, woodland, forests. I can't get enough of them. For me, advancing through a tree filled boscage is nothing but wonderful and calming. A place to forget everything and really give nature the attention it deserves. I know I'm not the only one like this. There's an ever increasing culture of people looking to explore the outdoors, escaping the hectic lifestyles so many of us live. A common escape for these people? Trees. Need proof? Head over to Instagram and search #pnw or #pacificnorthwest. The results will show an overwhelming amount of beautiful woodland and forests. Makes me want pack up and set off for a new life in British Colombia.
Some of us might just be crazy tree loving folk. In actuality we're probably the normal ones, showing natural appreciation to the life harnessing topiary all around. Perhaps the answer lies in our DNA. We’re all mammals of the kingdom, containing within a whole bunch of natural instincts. Instincts swaying us towards certain decisions, causing us to act in particular ways. Richard Dawkins mentions how the genes we have are like machines, driving everything we do.
Incredibly, we as a species have evolved with the ability of speech, allowing us to communicate with detail, forming opinions and offering the ability to debate. The different environments and methods of nurturing we have been raised with affect the mindset, opinions and personalities of individuals. I feel these factors work with and affect our natural instincts, explaining why some love trees, whereas some aren't so bothered or expressive about them.
Trees have likely been perceived in different ways across the duration of their standing. Look back in time to when the Neanderthals were around. Using fire to stay warm, cook food and ward off predators. Tree wood will have been crucial for sustaining fire.
In modern times, we could note a few examples of different views and uses for trees. On the one side there’s industry, slicing and dicing trees for the use of timber, paper and packaging, ultimately for the gain of money. Home decor fashioned out of wood is very popular, and brings the feel of the outdoors, inside!
If we were take global climate into account, people understandably have an affinity to the trees natural processes of sucking up our climate altering carbon emissions, and spitting out fresh oxygen for us to fill our lungs. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning, sticking your head outside and taking a deep breath of crisp invigorating air!
Taking a few steps back in human evolution can give us some answers. Look at our close cousin the chimpanzee, sharing over 98% DNA with us. Despite this incredible likeness, we live such different lives. Research in evolution would point to chimps, along with gorillas and orangutans, sharing a common ancestor with us. A common ancestor that would've spent a life time in the trees. This particular habitat provided shelter, protection and I’m guessing some not too shabby views. Hell, who didn't want a tree house as a kid? Now an adult I'd still love one! My very own area high in the trees with the sound of nature. Somewhere to read books all day and try my very best not to talk to myself. If you haven't, watch 'George Clarke's Amazing Spaces' on channel 4, you'll see the most amazing tree houses and woodland cabins. Rewinding a little bit, I’d say that the need and love of trees is in that 98% of the shared DNA.
The large majority of us may not live in trees, but the love is still there, some even seeing woodland as a solace. There is a natural beauty to trees, each being perfectly unique, just like you and I. Yet, when a large number of the same tree species are put together, an intricate and winding pattern is revealed.