Alistair Maclean's Web Site
Tree Carving?
Arboreal Script!

What is this?

Late of an evening a young couple, deep in love, or lust, or whatever, walk through the woods. He pulls out his penknife, and in a time honoured tradition he etches his loved one's initials into the tree's bark. Then they walk on, knowing that for decades they will be known as "those morons that carved up the tree!"

Fast forward a decade or two, the tree has grown, its weighty trunks girth is now measured in feet, rather than inches. All those graffiti are now part of the tree, they are its own personal history of life. The marks have distended and morphed into facets of the trees skin.

Wandering the woods one day I realised that these things were quite pretty in a post-industrial sort of way, and I started to try and photograph them. The first efforts were none too successful. But I continued to waste time and film on the effort. Recently I got a snazzy digital SLR, which allowed me to take some of the wasted film out of the equation.

I have thought long and hard, well not so hard, about what these marks should be called. Obviously they are carvings in trees, but more than that, they are altered by the tree's growth; the edges soften, lines begin to meander, the tree brings its own life to the cuts. So I thought these could be called Arboreal Scripts. They are of trees and involve, specifically, writting.

Arboreal scripts

One odd thing about these photo's is they are actually colour pictures, its just that the trees tend to be quite monochromatic, but in a few shots where I have not cropped tightly enough, you can see winters leaves lying on the ground.

The oldest carving that I see here was made in 1968. It is now 2006. Those fun loving teens could now be nearing their 60's. I wonder if they are still together, or have worn life as well as some of these trees?

All these trees are in the Watchung Reservation, in Central New Jersey.

© Copyright A. Maclean 2005 -
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