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Inside a Tree

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 25 November 2012

Mark Tully asks why trees are so important to us.

Why is it that, from childhood onwards, we feel the urge to climb inside their hollow trunks or up into their branches? How does the world seem different from inside a tree?

From Herman Hesse to Seamus Heaney, writers, poets and composers have been inspired by the power and grandeur of trees. The Hindu sacred text, the Bhagavata Purana, celebrates the shade cast by trees and the many uses of their bark, wood, leaves and sap. Their age and majesty inspires respect and, as the Dalai Lama said, "trees echo the Buddha's words expressing his fundamental teaching of impermanence".

With professional tree climber James Aldred, Mark visits the ancient yew tree which stands in the corner of St George's Churchyard in Crowhurst, Surrey. Together they climb inside its hollow trunk to contemplate the protective, comforting presence of a living organism which has stood in one place for four thousand years.

James has climbed hundreds of trees all over the world, even slept inside them. He describes the connection he makes with them and the way each tree he meets seems to have a distinct personality. Being inside a tree is the closest he comes to prayer.

Producer: Jo Coombs
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Music Played

4 items
  • Image for Henri Dutilleux

    Henri Dutilleux L'arbre des Songes

    Performers: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Oliver Charlier (Violin), Martyn Hll (tenor)

    L’arbre des Songes, Chandos, CHAN9504

  • Image for Ennio Morricone

    Ennio Morricone Gabriel's Oboe

    Performers: Ennio Morricone, London Philharmonic Orchestra

    The Mission, Virgin Records, B000000WFZ, 3

  • Image for Priscilla Ahn

    Priscilla Ahn In A Tree

    Performers: Priscilla Ahn

    In A Tree – Japan Only EP, EMI Music Japan Inc, TOCP-70793, 1

  • Image for Joyce Kilmer & Oscar Rasbach

    Joyce Kilmer & Oscar Rasbach Trees

    Performers: Paul Robeson

    Paul Robeson, EMI Records Ltd, GBBLY0701508

  • Readings & Music

    Title: Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978
    Author: Seamus Heaney
    Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
    ISBN: 978-0374516505

    Title: Meetings with Remarkable Trees
    Author: Thomas Pakenham
    Publisher: W&N
    ISBN: 978-0297843504

    Title: Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and Poems)
    Author: Hermann Hesse
    Publisher: Insel Verlag
    ISBN: 978-3458321552

    Title: Fantasia of the Unconscious
    Author: D H Lawrence
    Publisher: Arc Manor
    ISBN: 978-1604505320

    Title: Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana: Srimad Bhagavata Purana Bk.10
    Author: Translated by Edwin F Bryant
    Publisher: Penguin Classics
    ISBN: 978-0140447996


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