.

.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

LOVE IN THE WOODS


CLUSTER OF BEECH TREES ALONG A WOODED TRAIL DISPLAYING EVERLASTING LOVE
Along a creek trail near Berea College located in Kentucky, I counted a cluster of about twenty beech trees with carvings of hearts, initials and a few figures bored into the wood. The oldest carving was dated 1963. The latest dated carvings I could find were some in the mid 1980s.


The main theme of these carvings seemed to be undying love but I suppose with closer scrutiny one could unfold other meanings.


Now some of you might disagree with carving into a beautiful tree to profess one's feelings. This is not about agreeing or disagreeing, its about Arborglyphs. You might be saying what the heck is Arborglyphs? I know I did when I first discovered the word. 

CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 
Anborglyphs is the study of  culturally modified trees (CMT) -- those that have been carved by humans that give us a glimpse of a part of our culture. The Berea cluster of twenty or so trees probably has several cultural meanings. Let's look at some possibilities.

One is that  a nearby college full of young single students is located near the spot where I found the trees -- lots of opportunities to have multiple carvings of love symbols on the trees.


Secondly, why were all the symbols carved within that one particular cluster of trees when there was a whole woods to place their sentiments? 


The possible answer to the latter question is perhaps the trees acted as a "bulletin board" to all who traveled the trail. The beech trees sit tight against the trail. In other words, the trees could have conveyed to passing college students the sweethearts at their school. Of course this is all conjecture on my part  -- perhaps others would define the cultural context differently. 

CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 

Beech, aspen and birch have smooth barks for carving and are usually the types used for this tradition. Many people consider arborglyphs a form of folk art. 



CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 

In Northern Nevada and other parts of the United States immigrant sheepherders have given us a legacy of tree carvings since the late 1800s. The Arborglyphs are being studied for  clues as to the traditions of their culture. I've included some online resources if you would like more information on this interesting subject.

27 comments:

  1. They say there's a tree in the forest....! The Sweetheart Tree. I know you know the song and the words. It was popular when we were teens, if I mark my memory correctly!

    Some of us have viewed these inscriptions as graffiti, or worse...but I learned that they don't really harm the tree, until, that is, the messages run together, and thereby deny uptake of water.

    Elora

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've learned a new word today. Thanks! No conjectures, but wondering if names scratched on rocks deserve to be called petroglyphs which kind of put them on a par with very ancient carvings. Perhaps so since some day they will be ancient. Whereas these arborglyphs have a limited lifetime, as possibly does the love suggested.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting and I didn't know about aborglyphs. I will have to read more about this. Thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's so interesting. Arborglyphs are not so far removed from ancient cave paintings. As long as the trees are not harmed, arborglyphs are great markers of past travelers' new love.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I, too, have learned a new word today! I'd say everyone knew where the 'sweetheart' trees were. Kind of like a young lover's bulletin board to announce their love to the world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree, a perfect post for Valentine's Day. And I learned a new word too!

    I'm glad trees can survive so much carving on their trunks. They really have an amazing capacity to heal a lot of traumas with what almost seems like scar tissue. We have an ash tree that's suffered all manner of wounds, from bunnies nearly girdling it in some very deep. late spring snows one year to deer rubbing their antlers on it. "Our" tree just heals itself and carries on.

    I wonder if anyone has ever carved, "I ♡ trees" as an arborglyph? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I abhor tree graffiti, especially on beautiful beech trees, but an interesting post nonetheless!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Jackie -- Thanks for the nice comments about FOLKWAYS. Go ahead and use FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK for your dissertation. Sorry, I don't give out my full name or email. My info has been used as a citation at the university level by just using FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK, blogspot online resource. Warm Regards to you -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Elora -- Oh my gosh. I'm sorry but I really do not remember the song. I realize that carving is controversial. I do not advocate tree carvings. I agree with you, carving does not harm a tree unless the bark is stripped in a complete circle around the tree. Thanks for the comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi June -- Petroglyph's are usually ancient but can also be later picture carvings. You are so right, arborglyphs have a limited lifetime. Great remark that, possibly so does the carved sentiments. Thanks -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  11. Farmchick -- Arborglyphs are a facinating subect. The word though is a stumbler to me. Thanks -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  12. Chandler Arts -- I agree with you on both it being similar to ancient rock carvings and that I do not want the trees harmed. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  13. Vicki -- thanks for stopping by -- Happy Valentine's Day to you -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  14. Kay -- A day that all children love and adults remember. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  15. Janet -- there is a place in Utah that has a very large rock of petroglyphs. Its modern name is the message board by many as it was the telling of news by the ancients.I think you are right -- the trees served as a bulletin board. Love to have the carvers step forward today and see if they are still together.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Laloofah -- As I understand the western Basque sheepherders were aware that the tree's scars would, in a year, darken. This was the desired effect.

    So interesting that nature scars trees -- you gave good examples. Like the "I love trees," idea only I'd use it to carve into my natural rocks in my yard to be found a thousand years from now.Of course it would take me probably the rest of my lifetime just to carve those three words.
    thanks -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  17. Sheri -- I understand. Cultural customs sometimes conflict with our perceptions of how we should act or be. My approach was upon the reflections of such customs to our culture. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  18. What would you use to carve rocks? I wonder if a Dremel tool would work.

    It would be fun to have a tree with a carving that says, "I ♡ rocks" with a rock sitting at the base of it that says, "I ♡ trees." :-)

    Happy Valentine's Day, Barbara!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Laloofah --I don't know what a Dremel tool is? I have seen commercial small polished rocks carved with quotes in various stores. I am sure they have high powered equipment to produce them. They all look so perfect. As for my thoughts -- I would prefer one that looked hand carved. I think the method would be a matter of chipping out small pieces rather than carving.The softer the rocks the easier I would think it would be to work. If you decide to carve rock I hope you describe how you went about it in a post -- enjoy your day -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great bit of cultural anthropology, Barbara! Your readings all make sense -- as a living library of for lovers, be they from the nearby college or from hikers passing by. What is it about a beech that so invites a "Kilroy & Kittee 4 Ever R Here?" I've heard of older couples going back into the woods to see if their much-earlier proclamations have survived, the tree's own survival deeply a part of their own.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wonderful. I don't know what we would do without Beech trees. I always learn something when I visit your site. Thanks. Dianne

    ReplyDelete
  22. Brendan -- What makes a beech so inviting to carve is its lovely smooth bark -- like silk. No rough bark to deal with. Carvings stand out nicely against this type of bark. Thanks for the nice comments -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dianne -- Personally I couldn't carve a beech -- their beauty is seductive. Perhaps one reason lovers carve them. -- barbara

    ReplyDelete
  24. Barbara, this is one example of a Dremel tool (they make a variety of them - my mother swore by hers for doing all kinds of crafts and woodworking - but I thought I'd share the engraver tool, since we're talking about carving rocks!)

    I don't see myself doing any rock carving in the near future, but you can bet if I ever do, I'll post about it. :-) I love the "Walk in Peace" rock a little way down this page, would love to have one like it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Laloofah -- thanks for the info on the Dremel too.

    I went to the "Walk" -- like labyrinths of all sizes. Good for thinking.

    -- barbara

    ReplyDelete