News Item: Scientists Say Trees Can Talk.

It should come as no shock to anyone that trees talk. Motel owners, to name just one group, have known this for years. Why do you think so many of them are named The Whispering Pines? (For that matter, water talks too. You never heard of babbling brooks?)

The bigger questions are:

What do trees say?

Besides other trees, who do trees talk to?

And, if a tree bawls in the forest, how many other trees come over and act as a support group?

For the record--and I have this from some very peachable sources deep in the Georgia forests--trees basically have five favorite topics of discussion. One is dogs (the bite is worse for the bark). Another is Shakespeare (if you want to really get on a tree's good side, ask it to tell you the story of what happens when Dunsinane comes to Birnam Wood).

A third is poplar celebrities (Twiggy; Woody Allen; Leif Garrett). Like everyone else in these troubled times, trees also talk about alternative sources of paper. (It was William Randolph Elm who said, "I like the comics as much as the next sap, but why does the joke always have to be on me?")

And lastly, trees like to cut each other down--figuratively, of course. A day doesn't go by when an oak isn't called "nuts" or a citrus grove isn't referred to as "the pits." Those are real trunk-twisters in the forest. As are these famous tree ripostes: Your mother's an end table in a clearance sale at Levitz. Or, you're so low class you'll end up as a fern bar in Cleveland.

Although trees prefer to talk to other trees--the socio-cultural philosophy of this position is contained in the slogan "Power to the Pulpers"--trees surely will talk to humans too, provided said humans do not wear Pendleton shirts, are not employed at the Hub and did not vote to confirm either James (Cut 'Em Down, Load 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out) Watt or William (Hi, EPA's the Game But Weyerhaeuser's the Name) Ruckelshaus.

As a political group, with the exception of birches--and the aptly named George Bush--trees tend to be liberal, believing mainly in glade, shade and government aid. (At one point Ronald Reagan charged the trees themselves with polluting the air. Nowadays, he's probably singing a different tune: "I talk to the trees. But they don't listen to me.") The trees' registered lobby, Lumberjacks Should Die Political Action Committee, has consistently supported candidates who advocated the jailing of Euell Gibbons and has called for research and development money for the top-secret B&D Bomb, which would destroy all Black and Decker plants but leave the forest primeval.

It's probably a good thing that tree-speech has finally been publicized. Maybe now our wooden friends won't be so shy about telling us where we should carve our initials. Most of them are really quite sensitive, you know. Time after time a willow will have its feelings hurt so badly that it will weep. But will it cause a scene? Never. It simply makes like a tree and leaves.