Wind in the Trees

The mind speaks a language of generalizations, but nature speaks always in particulars. The senses open to a world of infinite richness, but the mind closes upon a territory impoverished and drab.

There is no such thing as the sound of wind in the trees. Or rather, no two trees will sound the same with a wind blowing through their branches.

Lying in the grass it occurred to me that this sound – which I had always imagined to be the self-same thing wherever tree and wind met – would necessarily differ if the leaves were shaped differently; or if there were more or fewer of them; or if each individual leaf were more fully or less fully grown.

Then of course there is the shape and arrangement of trunk, boughs, and branches to consider. These too must affect the sound. Even the species of birds, and their numbers and positions, and the placement of their nests in the branches must create subtle modulations.

Not to mention the direction and force of the wind, or the quality of the atmosphere.

The number of variables involved in making a sound so familiar, and yet suddenly unfamiliar, must be utterly beyond computation.

It is a matter of training, I suppose – a matter of teaching oneself to hear not the sound of “the wind in the trees” but of “this wind in this tree at this moment.” Careful attention rewards us in time with a sensitivity to distinctions we were previous unable to detect.

With practice we could perhaps come to recognize the different voices of trees in the same way we recognize the voices of different people.

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2 thoughts on “Wind in the Trees

  1. “To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall. And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality.”

    Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

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