21st October

What inspires you?

This is going to be more of a woody photo gallery blog  this week… with a bit of wordy stuff thrown in for good measure.

I’m a bit of a tree fanatic, and have been for as long as I can remember.  I’m not sure if I am, in some way, genetically disposed to love trees and woods, or if it was because my upbringing gave me access to these things, that I now feel so at home with them.  I certainly have plenty of memories of being amongst woodland as a child.  We also had a garden full of trees – I remember six big ones, 2 apple, a pear, a huge romping willow, which I spent hours playing under, and 2 poplars whose towering branches against the sky took my breath away.  There were also 2 or 3 smaller tress, one of which was a pussy willow tree that would become covered in the softest yellow catkins, as if someone had knitted them each their own mohair sweater.  I have distinct memories of all of these and the feelings of magic that they filled me with.  They definitely inspired me then, and do now.  Perhaps this is why woodland often seems to exist as a separate character in some of my stories, and why the woodland featured in Buttercup Magic is part of the magic of the story.

This Tibetan Cherry tree is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen, with its
stunning red bark. It grows at Parc Glynllifon on the Lleyn Peninsula, Wales, one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited and even had an amphitheatre in the middle of the wood.

This tree below was growning in the woodland surrounding Port Meirion, Wales, ‘snapped’ on holiday last Summer. I  fell in love with this tree, which, you have to admit, gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘trunk’!

These straight up and down pines at Clumber Park, Worksop, Notts are some of my favourite trees.  In fact, this is one of my very favourite places, and this particular area, my ‘dream’ writing place.

There are so many reasons I like trees, apart from ‘just because’ – their movement, their stillness, their colour, the way they play with the light and the way the light plays with them, their crooked shapes, the way they stand so tall and straight, their varying shades of green, their bareness in winter… and their bark, which is so incredibly tactile.

Whatever shape or form they take, I feel that when I am amongst trees, I have ‘come home’.  I find them truly inspirational, whether they become a setting for a story, a metaphor in a poem, or merely provide me with an environment that seems to feed my creative thoughts.

What inspires you to write?

Oh, and by the way, I am having a book launch for ‘Grub’s Pups’, the third in the Ruby and Grub series, on Saturday 29th October, 11am, at Waterstone’s in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.  Please feel free to drop by, say hello and grab a drink and a lolly!

About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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22 Responses to 21st October

  1. Martin Day says:

    Thanks for the Tree-huggers post, Abi,

    My tree memoir:
    My first job was age 17 when I worked as a labourer on a big housing development (where I now live) in the summer holidays. I remember seeing a large tree being felled. I felt rip of sadness that something that had stood so long was so quickly and unceremoniously dispatched. Somehow it felt like there should be more reverence for the death of the old tree. I was so moved that I wrote a poem about it. It’s one of the few poems I ever penned outside of the classroom, as the majority of my writing has been lyrics*.

    (* a friend asked me recently what the difference was between a poem and a lyric – that may be worth a separate discussion sometime.)

    • Thanks Martin, glad you liked it. Yes, I have the same feeling when trees are felled and find it incredibly sad. I can imagine how this would inspire you to write a poem out of the experience. I think a lyric is written with a song in mind, and can be poetic, but not always – a subtle difference. Leonard Cohen is a fine example of the merging of the two, whose poems and song lyrics are hardly distinguishable.

      • Martin Day says:

        Abi, on subject of lyrics, I agree. For me there is an awareness of concealment, that the meaning of a lyric will have to be mined by the listener (if they choose to) because of everything else that will be going on within the music.
        Also, there is usually much more of a discipline in the structure of a lyric – like verse/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus that has more in common with a limerick. But on the flip side there’s more room to throw words and syllables before or after the beat. (You should understand that all my lyric rhyme)
        And to finish: For me, I find that a repeated ‘chorus’ in a poem is often tedious whereas in a lyric is a natural resolution and a familiar friend.

        Oops, have I nailed my own notice to your tree?

  2. Jenny Alexander says:

    I love all the pictures Abi! My inner world seems to be tree-free. I never dream or write about woods or forests. I lived in Shetland for ten years, where there are very few trees indeed, and still go camping in the far North most summers. My fave walks down here where I live now are on the coast or across the moors. Odd really, because I grew up in leaft Surrey and Wimbledon, with a big garden full of mature trees.

  3. How interesting Jenny. So maybe there is something in the ‘nature’ thing, given that you grew up around trees, like me. Shetland must have been a beautiful place to live, despite the lack of trees. I love the sea and the coast too, and open hills and moors… but amongst trees is where I feel most ‘at home’.

  4. Emma Pass says:

    What a wonderful post, Abi (as always!). Many things inspire me, but usually they’re more intangible – a look, a sound, a certain feeling to something that sparks off an idea and makes it start to grow.

    I love woods too, though, and trees were a huge part of my childhood. The house I grew up in was surrounded by enormous, 400-year-old cedar trees, and I remember picking up their sap-sticky cones and swishing through the carpet of fallen needles beneath them. There was also a huge weeping beech which my sister and I used as a ‘house’ – the place where each cluster of branches touched the ground was a ‘room’. Then we had the ‘conker site’, a group of horse chestnuts we used to climb. We had bluebell woods nearby, too. I miss them!

    My dream would be to have an actual treehouse to write in – in the branches of a big, gnarly old tree – with windows looking out onto a spectacular countryside view! One day…

  5. Hi Emma, thank you! You seem to have exactly the same relationship with trees that I had as a child. I used to practically ‘live’ under our willow tree. I’ve always longed for a treehouse too – you will like ‘Buttercup Magic’ as Megan has one in the big tree in her garden!

  6. Jo Carroll says:

    I live near Savernake Forest and there are oak trees here that were saplings when William the First landed in Hastings. If only they could tell stories . . .

    Best of luck with the launch – am too far away to join you, but will have a lolly anyway and think of you.

  7. How wonderful Jo. I’d love to see them… and yes, if only they could tell us their stories! Thanks re. the launch – a good excuse to have a lolly if ever there was one!

  8. wendylyth says:

    And Abi strikes a chord with me again. Mohair sweaters – delicious! Wowsome pics! All of you seem to have been able to relate to trees as children, you lucky lot! So why do I love them so much? My parents never took me on walks – they were total towny, non-animal parents. My childhood was void of nature and pets (hear me sob!). So maybe that’s why I now literally live amongst nature as an adult. I absolutely HAVE to walk every day. Always in woodline – they cry out to be walked in. Every house we’ve bought has always been within walking distance of an amazing wood which would become my second home. And at every possible chance I choose to be outside in my gorgeous garden rather than inside.

    All I need now is to buy a new bloody laptop with a battery that works (as mine died some time ago) as I don’t have a 200′ ++ lead to enable me to sit under our old weeping willow on a ‘tiny island’ in the middle of our lovely pond and be mesmerised by our pretty old Koi….and write. Oh, and, of course, how could I forget my 3yo – the naughtiest of muses, Bronte – far removed from the calm of my woodland walks – an inspiration of a different kind altogether…….

    • Wendy, you are my wood ‘sister’! What a difference in upbringing we have regarding our exposure to nature, and yet we both share the same passion now. Oh, and if you don’t invite me to yours to see your beautiful garden and woodland, I’m just going to come knocking anyway (get the de-caf tea in!) 🙂

      • wendylyth says:

        YO! Wazzup wood sis! Seems that where there’s a will, there’s a way, n’est ce pas? Mother swears that if she hadn’t given birth to me at home she’d have been convinced she had the wrong baby, we are so different! She hates coming to visit: “No pavements,” she says! I threatened to buy her a pair of red wellies for her Ruby Wedding Anniversary – she’s never worn a pair. Oh yes, definitely *hands over an open invitation* if you are ever in the shires of Lincoln would LOVE to feed you on tea and a scone to welcome you to our humble little mud and stud. See, I even LIVE in a wood – an oak beamed one. Can’t get any more extreme as a tree lover than that, can you?! PS: they were chopped before I had anything to do with it though *guilty expression* 16th century an’ all. Sorry! Yikes.

  9. Denise says:

    I’ve always loved trees and woodland, and search it out on camping weekends. However my love-affair with them is coming to an end because we have 5 London Planes on the border of our garden, owned by the council, that are growing so big they are ruining my life! And I have no control over them :(. Just saying :).

    Other than that, lovely post.

    • What a shame about the trees, they grow to such a size too. Lovely in a park or field, but I can imagine they’re a bit much next to your house. Glad you still enjoyed the post though!

  10. Pingback: Landscapes of the soul | Writing in the House of Dreams

  11. What a lovely post and I love the photos too! I LOVE trees (surprise surprise) and I honestly did not read this post before we bought a cherry tree today!! I am so excited to plant it. I’ll tweet a pic. Also, I am quite disappointed that I can’t make it to the book launch…. will there be a NY launch too?

  12. Thank you Julia. What? Another thing we have in common? We have a cherry tree too, though it lives at our allotment, not in the garden. Yes, please tweet a pic. I will tweet some launch pics and do a blog about it too, so you won’t miss out too much. You never know, Santa might deliver you one of my ‘Launch Lollies’ 🙂

  13. daveyel says:

    It’s lovely to know that people exist who hunt out trees and feel, ‘hard-to-explain’ ties to them. There are a showy pair of oaks a few miles from me that I always look for, though they don’t seem to like each other much; and my friend always bows to a huge ancient oak in the hedge in a lane near her house. I love the way trees somehow seem to take on human characteristics, sheltering or brave or solitary like us. I was upset for days after seeing a small flowering pink cherry tree roughly hacked down to make more room in a car park. As a very short sighted child I could always grope my way to a ‘blasted’ oak amongst many others in a field near me and feel loved by it. I’ll just stare at rows of tall poplars, used as wind breaks, so beautiful. And dark pines with the sea behind them are in the background of many of my dreams.

    • Thank you so much for you lovely comment. It’s so lovely to hear about other people’s passion for trees and affinity for them. It is SO upsetting to see them chopped down just because someone somewhere thinks that they are ‘in the way’. They were here long before us, so who are we to decide. I love poplars too – there was a row of four that I used to look across at from by bedroom window when I was in my teens and writing a lot of poetry. I’d be sat with notepad leaning on my low window-sill, and would watch the trees and clear my mind until some words came. Thaks again for telling me a bit of your story.

  14. *cough* *ahem* err . . . I’m Dan and . . . *cough* I . . . umm . . . well . . . I love trees too. There. I said it. Don’t know much about them, but I love ’em. I love those massive trees standing way above the rainforest like sentinels. I love that solitary tree standing proud in ploughed farmland on an autum evening. I love rows of apple trees, heavy with ripening fruit. I love the twisted barren fingers of woodland in winter, and I LOVE those swaying pines from Twin Peaks – the sound of the wind playing through them is . . . ah! Right. Back to work.

  15. Ahhhh! You closet tree-lover you! You have just transported me to tree heaven. How deliciously put! Now get back to work… 🙂

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