Revisiting November Reflections

Consider this: your sensorium, especially your senses of colour, texture, taste, touch, and smell are already articulated by plant life. Their forms inspire your aesthetics, entrain your habitus, and excite your imagination. From this perspective, it is clear that your senses are already vegetalized. And yet there is still much work do to learn how to extend your synesthetic sensorium to meet their lively worlds. (Myers, 2018, p. 7)


Tree voices, borders, and borderlines have been ongoing themes throughout our inquiry work over the past year.  For some of us, these themes manifest themselves in moments of attempting to stretch beyond everyday trajectories to visit other centres and walk together in Haro Woods, which is itself carved up and ‘governed’ by three colonial jurisdictional entities: Saanich, the Capital Regional District (CRD), and the University of Victoria (UVic).  These moments are a reminder of the way concepts travel with us as we continue to try to open ourselves up to think with trees as much more than simply part of a backdrop against which childhood development happens.  

Trees, we are told by German forester, Peter Wohlleben, are highly social creatures, who cooperate and communicate within and across species lines in ways that defy a reduction to mere mechanics. The ‘wood-wide-web’ is a complex and necessarily relational system that trees co-create with their plant, fungi and animal neighbours, as part of a highly successful, collective strategy for survival.  According to Wohlleben “trees are able to taste (through…saliva) which animals are feeding on them”, in other words, taste those in the process of tasting them.  He describes their ability to “[drop] leaves as ‘a decision’ in preparation for winter…when they hibernate like bears” and see beyond detecting light and dark, to even “see shapes”.  Whether we recognize their decisions or not, trees (like us) are learning to respond to a rapidly changing world. 

How, if at all, might these new scientific knowledges affect our approach to engaging with our beloved trees we encounter? 

What might a collective response look or feel like?

Lately, several children have been responding and making new decisions in terms of where we want to go within the forest too.  Despite having different reactions, or rather because of children’s varied and unique responses to gathering in Haro Woods, moments together spark new sensorial considerations and reactions with individual trees we have come to know – Willow Tree, Grandma Tree, Old Stump, Waiting Log – among others who live in the forest.  Children new to the forest test new surroundings knowing that Haro Woods is soon going to dramatically change, crawling under-over the horizontal expanse of rough bark, engaging mind, muscles and skin as part of an embodied response to place (some happy, some not-so-much).  In the process of attuning bodies to the various places in the forest, we are met by a myriad of colours, textures, smells, uneven ground, and emotions that define particular place assemblages, including the place where sewer smells waft and demolition of trees are scheduled. 

What, if anything, might such moments open up?

‘Bird berry’ tangle

Property line encounters

Refusing boundary lines


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