The Wisdom of Trees

April 1, 2015


I love my local book-sellers, New Leaves. Last Friday they threw me a little do to celebrate the launch of my book. (Doesn’t the book store look nice?)

The guys at New Leaves

Anyway, I prepared a few words to say on the night about how much I have loved moving to this small community among the trees. This is part of my speech:

“I wrote a book set in the Celtic Iron Age because many years ago, when I backpacked through the UK, I felt a very powerful connection to the sacred sites of ancient Britain, especially Somerset in the South west. As I wandered around the misty stones of Avebury and the sacred springs at Glastonbury, I felt like this was a place to which I could be Indigenous. This could be my country. My dreaming.

I did a lot of research and I discovered a culture that valued education, and women, and especially trees. The Iron Age Celts worshipped trees. The Birch, the Elder, the willow, the Oak. Each species held its own wisdom, its own lesson.

I had a nomadic childhood spanning several different cities, but I’ve always been drawn to live among trees. As an adult, I’ve interspersed my city-based life with stints living in the Blue Mountains, Bathurst, Mallacoota and the Black Forest.

When I had children, I stopped moving around, started writing, and lived for ten years in Melbourne’s inner-west…the longest I have ever lived in one place.

For the first time I felt what it was to put down roots, to have a history somewhere. And it was good. But there weren’t enough trees.

So almost two years ago, my family and I tore out the roots we had grown in Melbourne and re-planted ourselves here in Woodend, where it’s all about the trees. The very same week we moved, I was phoned by Text Publishing and offered a two-book deal for my novel SKIN. I had turned over my own ‘New Leaf’!

So the book has been largely written here in the clean air and crisp days of Woodend. I have worked in a farmhouse out at Cobaw and then up at Duneira in the mists of Mount Macedon.

It was a very lonely experience at first, moving here. I knew nobody and I holed myself up in my writing studio for about 6 months before I even had a coffee with someone local. But the solitude, the intense quiet and the oxygen of the forest have sunk deep into my writing, and I don’t feel like it would be the same book if I hadn’t written it here.

I hope it has captured part of the breath, the long view, and the sense of peace and reflection that can only come from living among bush and beside mountains. I hope it has some of the wisdom of trees.

Now I’ve made lots of lovely friends and cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere else. I’m not a religious person but I do often say that living here I feel closer to God. Maybe the Iron Age Celts were onto something: maybe God and the trees are the same thing.”