The Tallest Spruce in the Neighbourhood

How to perform with a really big tree? And especially a tree that you have not chosen, or that has not “chosen” you, but one that has been pointed to you as a local celebrity? These notes will document my first attempts at visiting and performing with or in the vicinity of a tall spruce tree growing in the Paljakka area near Hyrynsalmi, not very far from the Mustarinda House. It is visible from the road, with an overgrown carriage path leading up to it. My hostess Hanna pointed at it already when we were driving past it on arrival on Tuesday 1 September. On Wednesday I decided to walk and see if I could find it, and came easily to the path. The grass was so high that I decided not to continue all the way to the spruce but to return the following day wearing rubber boots.

The path up to the spruce – without the spruce being visible at this point.

And so I did, in soft drizzle on Thursday. I walked up towards the spruce and realized that the path was bending so I could no longer see the tree, but continued for a while until I saw it again. The path did not lead up to spruce, however, but ended up in another path forming a T-cross. In order to reach the spruce I had to enter the forest and try to find my way through the shrubs. That was not difficult as such, but I was suddenly afraid of not finding my way back. I could find the spruce alright, it was a landmark, but how would I find the path again, if I lost my bearings. I tried to note particular stubs on the way, to be able to turn back into the right direction when returning from the spruce. It was majestic, for sure. I did not take out my camera and tripod but decided to make two simple videos with my phone, one further away and one quite close, simply following its trunk from the root to the top. How on earth could I perform with a giant like this? Performing with trees is always difficult if you would like to show the tree in full, but in this case almost impossible, because of the surrounding vegetation. I felt slightly scared in the midst of the forest and decided to return and come back later.

my landmarks to find my way back to the path

Today I realized I should take this spruce as my partner and challenger to explore various strategies of performing, rather than trying to “solve” the problem with one solution. So I decided to try to return to the tree and try out different approaches each time. And I also remembered the text “Befriending a tree”, that I encountered online, here. The writer Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder has some good advice to think about: finding a tree, introducing yourself, avoid referring to “it”, quiet yourself, observe the tree, let the tree surprise you, ask the questions that come up, maybe find out facts about the tree, return several times, spend at least 30 minutes each time, and try to write, photograph, draw, and share. – In my explorations with trees I have never been so systematic, or, on the other hand more systematic in the sense of being practical, deciding rather quickly what I want to do and how I will repeat it. And all the experiences usually come up during those repetitions. But now, what if I do not allow myself the comfort and security of a repetitive routine, but try something new each time, try to acknowledge the specificity of each moment? That is a challenge…

By Annette Arlander

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