Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cursed Woodlands

The influence of a movie at an early age, had me pondering the concept of sentient forests. That movie, “The Wizard of Oz," only sparked an early curiosity.

Sometime after seeing that movie, it was time to plant the spring garden My father decided to plant his own tomatoes and I would plant my own in a different part of the plot. He told me that talking to plants would make them grow faster and singing would make them grow even more. He bet me that while he was out of town on his many business trips and unable to tend to his tomatoes, that I could go to my side of the garden and talk and sing to my tomatoes and they’d grow larger. That experiment was thrilling. I both wanted to beat my father in tomato growing and see if perhaps all those times I sang in the woods I was making the trees happy. Much to my shock and my father’s, my plants produces amazing fruit whereas his were weak and meager. To this day, I soothe my plants by talking to them as I trim them or plant them. It sounds ridiculous, but I feel as though I'm reassuring them as much as myself that I'm doing the right thing. (Even though I love to plant things, I've always had a rather black thumb). As an aside to this story, the show “Mythbusters” did an episode that included whether talking to plants helps them grow. Yes, apparently it does and the content and the emotion of the voice doesn’t seem to matter. Music helps, as well, and in fact hard heavy metal music works best.

In my adolescence I saw a picture of the “Green Man” sketched by some local artist along the Eastern Seaboard. The Green Man was a Celtic figure cloaked in leaves and vines and berries who apparently was the guardian of the woodland. His image can be found in many cultures, as agriculture was so vital to man’s survival. Whether man romanticized his intimacy with nature through this image or whether he believed that a man who was part plant would make a good guardian of the forest, it’s an image that is more beautiful than frightening, more hopeful than it is tormented.

The movie “The Happening” caused an unsettling stir for many viewers when it proposed the question of whether or not plant life could communicate and send off toxins to exact revenge on a crowded earth. No one wants to think of their begonias as potentially lethal if they’re angered. The concept of emotion amongst plant life sounds unbelievable, but if plants can react to music and voices, then it does apparently interact in some way with what’s happening around it.

Plants as sentient things are actually fairly common in plot lines. “The Thing” came up with the Sci-Fi concept of a man who was a plant from another planet. The famous suicide forest in Japan is a place over 100 people a year venture into for the purpose of ending their lives. Why do it there? The forest is a thick one at the base of Mt. Fuji, with winding paths that easily get a person lost. I find it telling that people rather than wanting to die in the city surrounded by the masses, go to the dark and cocooning woods to rest in peace, rejoined with nature and beauty as the last sight they behold. Some say the woods call to them. Others believe the woods witness the bloodletting and become supernaturally stronger and more potent and haunted. That’s actually a concept that jives with my geology concept. Just the right natural conditions at the base of Mt. Fuji (a volcano) could make it an ideal ground to hold phenomenon.

In my manuscript, “The Thicket,” the plot was born from my earlier influences and the daily walks I took in the woods when I was growing up. Some forests feel good, others feel very unsettling. Some forests grow uncontrollably and seem to take up every resource and ever trace of sunlight. They turn you around. They make you lost. They become inky dark by early afternoon. My goal in writing the manuscript was to suggest what would happen if woods could get a taste for blood and seek more? What if they were cursed and man could not enter them without turning into his true nature, a beast.

Can a forest become cursed? Can plants respond to emotions? Can vegetation communicate? Right now, it appears to be impossible to know the finer details of plants. What we can know, however, is that everything we do on the Earth has affected them from disease to blight to heat and drought, burning and chopping. We have affected them, of that there is no doubt. But, think about this…they have affected us too. In the past, when we left them more intact, our cities had no heat islands, there was plenty of oxygen, less carbon dioxide. Perhaps in their own way they are exacting revenge.


  1. I love talking and singing to my plants while watering them. I tell them what is going on in my life. I ,ake wishes for them and i pet them. My neighbourhs love those moments of affection!

  2. Good, I'm not the only one. I have to admit, recently I pruned back a mulberry tree that had taken over the entire yard. I felt so guilty, I wanted to weep when I was sawing back the limbs. I touched the cut spots of it and talked to it and within a week it started sprouting new limbs. Now, I control it's growth more often so it won't take over the yard. I feel less guilt about pruning it now because I realize it has more nutrients and health if I keep it from growing too big for this desert soil. Assuming trees have no understanding of what we're saying, I believe in treating all living things gently and with compassion. It comes back to you in the end (such as my large tomatoes that summer I talked to the plants).

  3. After watching that eppy of Destination Truth on the haunted forest, I'm thinking they are. Not to mention The Blair Witch Projects, a movie that scared me even though I knew it wasn't real. I always get a bit of an eerie feeling whenever we went camping. When the forest is pitch black and you can hear every little sound, it creeps me out. I still want to go on a Bigfoot hunt someday even though the thought scares me, lol.

  4. Julie;
    I'll be sure to include you in on my group of invites for when I finally can get up to Greer to the haunted cabin to hunt ghosts at night and spend the day doing some bigfoot hunting. I was hoping to get 4-6 girls who want to go. I know two who will probably go for sure, but the others are in that phase of their lives--still raising kids, so they're always no-shows for overnight events. I'm so in the mood to hit some dark wet creepy woods at night. Yeah, that Destination Truth episode--wish they could do a 2-hour documentary on it, hunting around in there, getting weird stuff on film and audio, and then finding abandoned camps. Creep-o-rama. I would love to know the story of that guy who tore up the girl's picture and hid it away. That misty figure forming--very cool. The whole premise of my novel is that the rock in the mountain retains energy and memories. The limestone records it, the granite holds it within, and the quartz releases it. I like that concept and it sure made for some scary woods...

  5. Great post. I've had those feelings in the woods; I feel that the trees and plant life are "alive" and are watching me. Kinda creepy sometimes.