Things about trees you didn't know you didn't know...

Trees have been around for a long time, approximately 385 million years.

We often dramatize the idea of the first lobe-finned fish dragging itself onto primordial land, kickstarting the next phase in biological evolution.

But we forget that there was once a first land plant too.

A tiny spore of Ordovician moss.

I’m not sure why our new EP is called "Trees," beyond a lyric from its opening song, "Heart of the Storm."

The lines go (for future stadium-sing-along reference):

"In the heart of the storm, I will leave the backlight on.

You can come in to get warm when the night blows cold.

And in the morning, when you leave,

I’ll try not to feel aggrieved.

I’ll just sit out beneath the trees and watch you go."

I think they’re probably inspired by Hermann Hesse’s "Siddhartha" - the story of the Buddha (or, at least, a version of the Buddha). In it, the princely Siddhartha sits beneath the fig tree for seven days and seven nights before coming to understand the true nature of suffering and desire.

My chorus is typically tinged with more lonely resignation than enlightenment.

Both symbolically and biologically, there is no escaping trees.

Not only are they the handmaidens of complex life - providers of oxygen, sequesterers of carbon, shelterers, feeders, and much more - they are also a visual analogy for the Darwinian process itself: a single trunk diverging into countless twigs and branches.

Without trees, there would be no music as we know it.

And not just because there would be no human beings, but also no instruments. Wood, and its reverberative qualities, is essential to the art form.

Stradivarius violins, for example, get their magically irreproducible sound from spruce and maple grown specifically during the ‘Little Ice Age’ of 1645-1715.

U2’s seminal album "The Joshua Tree" - named after the solitary tree standing alone in the Mojave desert, reminding early Mormon pioneers of the prophet Joshua guiding the Israelites toward the promised land - demonstrates their evocative and thematic power.

As does Radiohead’s "Fake Plastic Trees," a song so violently moving I’m not sure it should be allowed to exist. The title alone perfectly captures all the superficial indifference of a world that has surrendered to an artificial simulation of itself.

And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it is specifically the tree that they have rendered fake and plastic.

A fake plastic tree feels like an insult to the soul.

Cultures, both ancient and modern, have understood trees to encapsulate something unspeakably profound about the nature of existence. They are living bridges between the heavens and the earth.

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil, or the Tree of Life, binds the universe together, connecting the nine cosmological realms to the eternal springs of wisdom, fate, and chaos.

In my first year at university, I remember coming across the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Dream of the Rood." In it, a dreamer finds themselves in dialogue with a vision of Christ’s crucifix. It describes to him how it once stood proud among the other trees of the forest before being felled, carved, splintered by nails, and forced to bear the blood-soaked redemptive passion of God’s human death.

The tree is a symbol of transition: it begins in the realm of nature, is repurposed by the unforgiving hand of civilisation and ends as something both eternally and spiritually transcendent.

Again, we see the tree as a connective symbolic force, whether it brings the Buddha to enlightenment, the earthly to the divine, or even U2 to a Grammy.

I hope my EP, "Trees", helps you feel a little more connected to something beyond yourself.

And even if you don’t achieve Nirvana, or find your bones resonating like a Stradivarius, there might be something in there that makes the 25 minutes or so worthwhile.

Keep dreaming,


Rob Jones & The Restless Dream

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