Confessions of a Dendrophile

Dendrophilia literally means ‘love of trees’. Planting them, hugging them, and talking to them are some of the more common expressions of tree love. Occasionally, however, dendrophilia can be expressed as a kind of fetish, in which people are sexually attracted or aroused by trees. Myles Broad explores this curious connection in the first ever short story ever written exclusively for The Planthunter. It’s quite a read! Georgina.

He trudges wearily up the path, the rain tending to sleet, stinging his cheeks. The ground is wet underfoot and his boots are starting to soak through. The sun hasn’t appeared for days, nor has another human soul. Just him, the brooding grey clouds and the biting wind.

It wasn’t always like this. Once he managed a team of fifteen men, barking orders like a parrot, after they were barked at him. He carried respect in those days, strutting from parterre to potager and hedgerow like he owned the place. Not well liked but respected at least. A man could hold his head high back then, knowing there was work to be done and that he was the one who made it happen.

That was a while back. Back before the thousand yard stares, before the conversations went quiet when he walked in on them, before the two weeks severance pay, no questions, no discussion. They all knew but no one was saying.

Driza bone my arse he mutters to himself as he feels the seams seeping through his oilskin coat and on to his skin. Too wet to mow, too windy to spray, too pointless to rake up.  He heads to his cottage and throws another damp log into the dying embers of the potbelly stove.

They’ll be down tomorrow he tells himself, the gentleman and his wife. All shiny European metal and fashion, like it means something. He’ll fetch some dry wood for them later. Maybe sweep the front porch and prune back that climbing rose like she asked him to, last time they deigned to visit. ‘And I’ll cut that one right back to the stems’, she’d said, like she was doing it herself instead of issuing orders. Lazy bitch.

It’s really coming down now, relentless like it’s been all season. He stands in the doorway watching the rain whirr around in the wind, whipping the plants this way and that. Fucking winter. Shit he hates it; the short days, the implacable cold and the endlessness of his tasks. Still, at least he’s working. He’s got a job and he doesn’t have to look those bastards in the eye.

The plants don’t judge him, that’s what he loves about them most. They just keep on their preordained trajectory. Sprouting in spring, flowering in summer, pushing fruits and seed out in autumn. Half of them shitting themselves and pissing off for the winter. They’re all perfect and imperfect in their own special ways, pushing up from Mother Nature’s soils. Gardening, it’s like his religion. ‘Your raison d’etre’, that snobby bitch said to him once, like he learnt French at school.

The plants are his family. His kids that he raised from fine brown seeds to strident green herbs, the saplings he adopted and took on as his own now shooting strong and tall like he told them to. And the wise, gnarled elders who’ve stood longer on this land than he’ll ever know, whispering to him the secrets of the past.

Then there’s her. Standing as always with her friends but just outside the huddle. They make an impenetrable pack; bitching and flirting and dancing. The swelling of their bodies belie their babyish skin. She’s a part of the group – chattering in the wind, all exaggerated movements and adolescent unsophistication – but she’s not. There’s something different about her. He wanders past them too often every day, studiously avoiding their gazes as he passes. But he always glances back and catches her eye when he feels he won’t be caught out by the gossiping horde. There’s no mistaking the gaze she returns him. It’s meaningful, certain, and womanly.

He pulls himself from the warmth of the potbelly and sets out into the rain, heading automatically to her, his heart beating loudly in his chest. He wants her now. His blood courses through his veins with desire.

Not now, he tells himself. Later, when they’re not watching, when he has her to himself without the underhand sniggers that he’s learned to hate.

He pulls himself together and walks past. Eyes front. Still, he can’t help but to turn his head, just in time to catch her wink. He feels the colour rise in his face. The others see it, and a juvenile giggle rises behind him as he walks away.

Tonight. He’ll wait until tonight, when the cloak of darkness descends on the garden. If the moon is out, its silver light will dance across her skin. That’s when he loves her the most, when he feels most at ease with her and her with him. He’ll reach up and caress the furrows between her limbs as she reaches towards the darkened sky in ecstasy. Their passion will join and he will feel whole again. Satiated, at peace.