The Long View is so named because it is, quite obviously we think, about taking the long view. Tree time arches over the short terms of prime ministers. It stretches beyond a family’s generation. And in terms of woodlands and forests, tree time spans centuries.
It seems fairly fitting then, that the planning for The Long View has taken quite a while. We first mused about it in 2010, when we loosely named the project ‘Seeing Seven Trees’. We didn’t know then quite how it would come about, but we knew we wanted to visit seven specific trees repeatedly, and get to know them. We had one tree in mind … and needed to find the other six.
How do you find a tree?
It’s much harder to find a certain type of tree when you’re looking for it. Most often, they speak to you, when you haven’t asked. That has been our experience anyway.
A lot of people have said to us, ‘I know a nice tree.’ But it won’t necessarily be what we’re after. What is it’s aspect? Does it stand away from others? Is it thriving? Does it have pleasing form? Can it be viewed from a number of different angles? Where does the sun rise and set in relation to it? On whose land does it stand? What rare plants are growing beneath it or nearby? Is it close to a footpath, but far enough away from a car park to be something to encounter as part of a journey? Does it make you smile? Does it invite you to pause? Does it prompt wonder? Does it change with the seasons?
Over the years other projects took our attention but we gradually built up our list of seven trees, and the work we were doing (particularly with Land Keepers) was helping us learn more about these tree’s environs and the stories around them. By 2014 we had come up with a new project name, and at the beginning of 2015 we set out on a quest to gather the funding that we’d need to complete all the journeys, involve schools, link the trees with seven cities, launch a programme of public walks, and put on a touring exhibition of the photographs and writing. As we did this, we met people who are passionate about trees and about the land they survey. We’ve had many inspiring conversations and feel very privileged to have support behind us that’s not just about finances – it will help us learn a huge amount as we go along.
Why are there seven trees?
The idea of having seven trees came almost instantly.
The Long View is not only about trees – it is about the connection between humans and trees, and what happens to us when we are with them, or even when we walk and spend time outside.
As a way of exploring the physical and emotional impact of being with trees, we will be considering the seven main chakras, or energy points, in the human body – as we walk and when we rest with the trees we will be focusing on our own physical feelings and emotional states. Chakras are recognised in a number of Eastern traditions and are said to be located in the body in the same areas as major nerve centres (e.g. the heart and solar plexus). They have over many centuries been linked with emotional states and stages of physical and personal development – you may have heard of meditations or visualisations that concentrate on the chakras. Our reflections will be shared on this website and in the final exhibition.
At the trees we will use subtle colour transformations to illustrate the connection between them and human wellbeing. You may be taken simply by the colour change and the visual spectacle, or you may want to try out the symbolism of the chakras, and let your inner eye be drawn to issues such as belonging, love, anger or will power.
We have walked to the trees quite a few times already, and now, at the beginning of 2016, we have in front of us a schedule of walks and more walks, meetings with experts, workshops in schools and lots more. We will be out there with eyes open and senses keen. Our photographs and writing, including poetry, will record our time at these special trees, and our journeys to them. And we’ll be asking questions about each species of tree, the benefit of trees to health, and successful tree planting programmes. We’re looking forward to the year ahead!