TREES HAVE SOULS
Sergei Konenkov is the name of the greatest of all Russian wood-carvers. He says that trees have souls and that American trees embody spirits different from those inhabiting trees in any other part of the world. "The giant California Redwoods house powerful but kindly forces," he says. "I want to see all America's trees, and feel beneath my fingers the secret-revealing bark of trees that have never yet confided in me. The great Sequoias may hide the souls of warriors; the cypresses the spirits of Grecian Gods; the poplars, very modern beings." Pointing to a statue in his studio of an old woman in rags, her figure following the curve of a tree from which she emerged, he said, "She is a little old soothsayer. She wanders throughout the Russian forests in which I was born with a mysterious smile upon her lips and wisdom in her eyes. I grew up to know that the birch trees often hold the spirits of little old soothsayers. I spent my boyhood in the forest under the influence of the most fantastic of fairy tales. I knew all the good and bad spirits of the woods. I lived the restless life of the forest people whose little towns sprang up for a few years' duration, then vanished."
When Konenkov was nine years old, the priests of the community, astonished at his talent, sanctified some remarkable holy paintings he had made. Afterwards he won fame throughout Europe with his stone and marble sculptures. Suddenly he ceased to work in marble, declaring it to be too cold and lifeless. He left his friends and returned to the forests for inspiration. Lately he has come to study American trees.
His feeling for trees is quaintly described by the following illustration. He said that in New York Central Park he found a tree that was to him the soul of a candle such as burned in Russian homes in celebration of Easter Week. "The little tree with its leafy crown flaring in the perfumed air of spring is like the candle in the incense-laden atmosphere of a cathedral."
Konenkov displays the poetic attitude toward trees, but Sir. J. C. Bose, eminent Hindu botanist, has convinced the entire scientific world, through his experiments, that trees really have souls and feelings akin to our own. "Trees apparently select other trees nearby as objects of affection," the plant-psychologist said recently. "Trees thus smitten send out tendrils to enfold the objects of their love. I have known a love-sick palm which refused to bear fruit for two seasons because its mate's pollen could not reach it and only when this pollen was scattered over its branches did it begin to bear fruit."
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