The trees at Waterperry frame Art in Action, providing avenues, shade, and most of all keeping the wind down.The peaceful atmosphere amongst all the beauty we humans bring to it is totally held by the trees all around. On the front lawn we are particularly graced by the huge fountain of life that is the Redwood. This tree is a perfect example of dynamic stillness. If you look at it from the outside it is all gently falling branches, twigs flowing down, needles all gently swaying. If you go inside and look at the trunk you get the opposite view. The straight, powerful singular strength has such an upward rush it really can feel like you are standing within a fountain. In one sense you are? Tons of water are raised up this trunk every day, tons of water cascade down these branches, carrying salts and starches out into these needles. And here the miracle is performed, photosynthesis changes these compounds into sugars and new starches. In as much as we do not really know how this happens, can only just track what does happen this remains a miracle. In as much as this process provides the air we all need to breathe this remains a miracle. In as much as trees are now known to make us happy in a fundamental way that hand made beauty and culture can only assist with this remains a miracle.
Now another amazing moment. Once this fountain of life has rushed from under the ground and out into the needle-leaves it becomes reversed. Up along all these twigs. Up along all these branches, back into the trunk and, now just under the bark this fountain flows back into the ground. Standing here under this tree I do not get wet, I can marvel without fear of that. Down into the ground this transformed sap flows, feeding the tree’s growth as it does so. Giving of its sunlit energies to the production of new wood, new bark this flow of complex compounds we have not yet fully understood arrives eventually at ground level again and does not stop there. On down into the ground it goes, now truly like a reversed fountain, bringing the sun’s energy into the dark earth, building new wood in the roots, feeding the tree’s growth down into the ground. Feeding the hidden underground strength that holds up this fountain, feeding the roots that spread out below as the twigs do above. And more.
The sugars from this sap are also donated by the tree into the ground, supporting other plants, the understory of the woodland as well as fungi. Fungi, the catabolic counterpart to the tree’s growth. Fungi that break down the minerals in the soil into sizes that the tree can use. Minerals that the tree needs to continue its upward rush. Thus the harmony of above and below, the harmony of anabolic creation and catabolic destruction can be seen in this tree, this individual specimen of a particular species that stands here, in the gardens, at Waterperry, waiting again for the beauty and joy that we bring to its feet every year.
This year, for the first time we will be encouraging and supporting people to discover the beauty in these trees that so support us to make Art in Action what it is each year. I hope you will come into my tent and discover there, not just trees but also Sounding Bowls. The voice of the tree taking song, like the birds once did in its branches.
During Art in Action Tobias Kaye can be located on the front lawn in front of Waterperry House.