#354: Trees and Words

Moretti, Franco (2007). Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, 70.

Story behind the Passage

Today, just a few minutes ago, I wrote a beautiful text for today’s post. It was about how I planted a mini tree in the garden today, a a red current bush. And I wrote about how much that made me see what I do very clearly. It made me see the obvious — that my roots are in writing and how writing is what I do. And I wrote about how much, sometimes, thinking keeps you from seeing. But your roots underneath which reach down deep into the earth are beautiful, they ground you, they can hardly be hurt. They navigate how you grow, without you having to think about it.

It was a beautiful text.

And then it was gone.

The program crashed.

The computer did not save it.

I lost it.

Just like you lose people sometimes.

Now I have tears in my eyes because losing a text really means something to me.

Texts have a soul —

my soul in them.

And when they are gone,

only part of their soul remains.

I have it in my mind.

But you cannot read it anymore.

I will make another attempt.

My Learnings

“From a single common origin, to an immense variety of solutions: it is this incessant growing-apart of life forms that the branches of a morphological tree capture with such intuitive force.”

This time different.

I will not retell what I told before.

Because that cannot be done.

Writing is improvisation.

There is no “second run.”

Still, I remember the thoughts I wrote about.

How Moretti is the enfant terrible of literary studies.

That he reads texts like data and presents the findings in graphs and trees.

How much I like that.

But how much I love trees even more.

I embrace them.

I hug them.

When nobody is watching.

And I wrote about,

how this is a shame.

People hug each other all the time,

Some do, at least.

So hugging trees is like hugging people.

But trees grow all the time.

They grow like words flow on paper when I write.

All the words flow from one root — one thought.

And I do not notice it even.

Just like you do not notice how the tree grows with your bare eyes.

Just like you grow older and wiser.

Without noticing it.

I wrote about how people are born without words.

And then they die without words.

But other people share words about them.

They tell and write stories about them.

I wrote about how much writing is a joy and an art and a gift.

You plant seeds with words.

You help others plant seeds in the minds of others.

I wrote about how much I love that.

I love that as much as I love trees.

They smell good — like earth and dirt and wood.

Trees give life to us.

Without them, we cannot breathe.

They host life.

You have to move away from them to see their entire beauty.

You have to move closer again, to see all the details —

the leaves and the tiny interwoven branches.

Moretti writes about this immense “variety” that emerges from just one root.

It is this variety that shapes our life.

Moretti talks about “intuitive force.”

I talked about how intuition moves me.

How I think a lot about it.

Because everyone who thinks of the origin of the earth and its workings,

Thinks about intuition.

We want to know where we come from.

We want to know where we go.

And when we ask these questions,

We end up questioning the ones asking them.

Is it our rational mind or what is it?

Nobody can tell what intuition is.

I talked about all this just now and I liked reading what I was writing.

Now it is all gone.

And then I ended with the finding that nobody can kill a tree.

You can burn the stem and you can plant it somewhere else.

But some roots remain, for sure.

Like the iceberg hides most values underneath the surface.

You have to dive to see it.

Or you have to be smart to suspect it.

You have to be brave to face it.

How it hurts to see so many words gone.

They all came from one source,

Now only fragments remain.

This is why trees represent life.

So much based on such a small root.

If you break the branches,

All the beauty is gone.

But the seasons will change again.

The rotten apples fall down.

And spring will brign new beauty.

This is what happened now.

I could not save the original text.

So I had to create something new.

New branches and new leaves.

I am not sure if I like it.

But nature forced it on me.

This is what it is.

A tree will keep growing,

Whether we like the direction or not.

Only future generations will see the result,

And they might wonder,

How it all started with one root.

I would have loved for you to read all this.

Now I can only cry about what is gone.

And I can smile about what is on paper now.

This is the tree of life.

There is only one way.

To move forward, growing up —


Not knowing where the branches will end,

Where the leaves might whither.

I am ready to accept

That I planted this tree.

And the more I look at it,

The more I love the roots.

They are solid and nobody will take them away.

These are my roots.

There is only one chance really.

I am touched by this tree.

And I start seeing its beauty.

Than you dear red current tree,

For teaching me so much.

I will paint an image,

In your honor.

That nobody can delete,

Unless my words stop flowing.

At some point they will,

But that is our fate.

We have to trust like the tree,

And the birds singing in the crown.

Trees are solid and wise,

We can rely on them.

So, let us learn,

To rely on ourselves,

And the beauty of the roots,

Only we can feel them,

if we are close to ourselves.

They will make us grow further.

Into the sky.

Reflection Questions

1) What do you associate with trees?

2) Is your native language one in which every word can be traced back to only a few “root” letters? Which examples can you give?

3) What are the “roots” of your identity that have made your “branches” grow and flourish?



Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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