With this project I’ve heard thousands of tree stories—most likely told for the first and perhaps only time. I’ve heard touching stories of trees being planted in memory of a loved one, of how a tree saved a life by stopping a car out of control from plunging into a lake, and of course I’ve heard about the magic of spending hours as a young child hanging out in their branches. I suppose it’s obvious that I love hearing these stories of trees and how we’re connected to them—how they’ve influenced our lives. I’ve always felt honored to be a part of this storytelling moment in time, yet sometimes secretly wishing that there were some way to capture these precious memories being told—so that others too might be inspired to remember their deep connections to trees.
My wish was answered when Dawn Bennett introduced me to Beth Barbush, an artist, photographer, and story collector. Beth is currently living in Cambridge, Maryland working for the Maryland Humanities council developing public dialogues and programs around agricultural and environmental issues. We spoke a few times on the phone and finally had the pleasure of meeting at the Chicago Botanic Garden where this collaboration began. Although she seemed inspired and eager to collect these stories, I wondered about the challenge she had in taking on this project having just moved to Maryland—but as the days and weeks wore on was delighted in hearing her experiences with others in her quest. (Now I’m secretly hoping she’ll capture her own story sometime soon!) It’s a delight to have these recorded interviews from the Allegheny Mountains join Treewhispers . Be sure to allow extra time when you visit. I know you’ll want to hear them too.
Photo by Pamela Paulsrud