At a kitchen table in 2010 I decided on a personal challenge: to climb a tree every day for a year (and maybe create a book about it). I climbed my first tree that night. After two weeks of climbing a tree every day I started inviting people to join me and I recorded our conversations in the branches. Among 80 companions there was a band, a class of nine-year-old children (who sang to me about trees), a shaman family, a non-protesting protestor, a politician, a holistic economist, professors, artists, poets, activists and 44 people at once, including an eight-month pregnant woman.
Each of the 365 trees through four seasons became a stage and inspired a new line of thought. The view of an oil drill undergoing maintenance from a lime tree on Southampton docks gave me a diary entry about the scale of the ‘economy machine’; I see why it’s hard for oil tycoons to walk away from a ten billion dollar oil extraction project. A conversation on Elba, Italy in a lentisco tree about the burning rain forests of Madagascar led me to understand economic schemes such as biodiversity offsetting and speculate on the last 10,000 years: ‘the age of the psychopath’. 100 climbs later I joined my cousin Ragnhild Lie in a wych elm in the King’s park in Oslo, Norway. We discussed her pseudo support group participative performance Petroholics Anonymous where I pledged to reduce my own addiction to oil by cutting down on meat. I met with joint leader of the Norwegian Green Party Hanna Marcussen, who gave me a wider perspective of the political landscape in Europe. Professor Mikael Ohlson from the University of Life Sciences in Ås, Norway schooled me in the life-history of ‘higher plants’ and trees’ ‘epigenetic memory’.
I climbed through ten countries, found myself on a Norwegian chat show, in a three-story tree house theatre, was hoisted into a tree by the Fire Brigade, had my hair cut in a tree, staged my own death falling out of a tree, tried my hand at some mild activism, climbed the famous Trafalgar Square Christmas tree before it was cut down in Nordmarka in Oslo. My year of climbing ended with a Family Tree Party where my estranged parents and the rest of the family climbed a tree together.
Being close to these great plants that stand rooted at the centre of my journey revealed layers of their complexity, showing me that climbing them isn’t just whimsical child’s play. They gave me the excuse to use my body as well as my mind to unlock their puzzles up through the branches, which in itself is ‘somatic’ therapy. I’ve experienced a tree’s mysterious innate qualities that can have a profound influence on lifting my mood. I’ve felt some semblance of communication with trees. I was privileged to have an appointment with a splinter of nature every day, that forced me to consider our symbiosis with the biosphere more deeply and our fate from the 6th mass extinction. Even now I’m still baffled with wonder by these living fractal giants.
An ongoing adventure and the crowd fund
In 2013 I launched a crowd fund to enable time for weaving together the various texts into a readable book; condensing 1400 pages of my diaries and the transcribed and edited conversations with my co-climbers, and adding my reflections and research since my year of climbing ended. Additionally making selections for the thousands of photographs I took and creating and sourcing diagrams and illustrations. I was naive enough to believe this could all be done in a few months; perhaps my life’s greatest underestimation-achievement.
Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered books. It means a lot to me and your support has definitely motivated me to finishing what I started. It’s coming soon.
I’m now privileged to be working on the fifth draft of Art of Climbing Trees alongside editor and author, Charlotte Du Cann, who is bringing her insightful attention to my words.
It was and remains a surreal and enriching adventure that is helping me to galvanise ideas for a transition out of our one way street to extinction. In Art of Climbing Trees I aim to describe the root of these troubles and the blockages to change, and what a vital and inspired world might be like. I don’t imagine I’ll get there myself, or if any of us will, but I’m just naive enough not to have given up on reaching an achievable Utopia.
Please follow me here on the blog, on the Facebook group, on Twitter or on Instagram where I’m posting regular insights of the final chapter in realising this book.
In case you were wondering, I am:
An anxty environmentalist with a smile and a grimace. I write, create 2 and 3D visual art, directs theatre and film, build wooden things. I’ve been pulling, drawing and imagining the cart with and without a horse since leaving school. I juggle a string of projects, worry about ideas, rewrite scripts, lug art to galleries, scrawl poems on tiny pieces of paper, plan to take over the world, stare at my computer screen, edit digital images and make stories with them, thank and apologise to actors for their performances, whistle down the street, occasionally struggle to get out of bed, fill suitcases with smoke, travel to Norway for the other half of my life, irritate people and trying to make them (and myself) laugh while doing all the other good and bad things people do in this society.