The Standing People
AWE Season One Episode Nine
Ever since I first heard the Native American term, I have thought of trees as the Standing People. It fits, in a way which feels right, in a way which is respectful and also practical. Trees are all different, each species with properties which make them unique, in the same way as we human people, each with characteristics and a personality of their own. Just think of the words we associate with different trees—the sturdy oak, the majestic cedar, slender birch, or the weeping willow?
We impose much of ourselves on nature, we anthropomorphise, making animals and plants seem more human, but we also impose our own, 21st century, time and experience on the past. At university, my dissertation was on the subject of life in woods—how our Mesolithic and Early Neolithic ancestors would have been a part of the woodlands, which would have shaped them in a way we cannot easily consider.
As an example, if you have ever seen an illustration of those stone age peoples, you would be forgiven for thinking they lived in wide open spaces, with the forest, the thicker woodland, somehow at the edge of each image, perhaps on the horizon, or on a hill behind their camp. This would not have been the case.
Trees would have been ever-present and, usually, close.
There would have been other landforms: large, seasonal bogs, formed from the infilling of beaver ponds, reedbeds along rivers and near the coast, open spaces above the treeline, where the wind and cold stunted and twisted what tree species could survive into miniature bonsai versions of themselves. Yet, for most of their lives on land, those stone age peoples would have been in the woodland, often unable to see far, surrounded on all sides by the Standing People.
Walk with me and discover how we can find empowerment through our millennia-old relationship with the natural world—a relationship which feeds into story: yours, mine, everyone’s.