“I found the meaning of my life at the foot of my oak”


His name is Quercus. If you walk in the forest of Rambouillet, you risk crossing it without realizing it. For Laurent Tillon, this oak is all at the same time a brother, a friend, a confidant… A living being who has been with him since adolescence. He remembers their first meeting well: “I often made bike rides in the forest with my friends, but that day I was left behind. And in addition, the chain has derailed … ” The impression that the fate persists, and yet: the teenager feels a certain peace among the trees. Inexplicable. At the end of two weeks, he returns. Only. Leans against a tree: “I didn’t find the right seat straight away, we got used to it over time”. But Laurent Tillon feels that he must reconnect with nature. As a child, he chased small animals during his stays on the grandfather’s farm. More and more often, but always in secret, he comes to “his” oak tree and thinks: “I had the impression that I was taking root, that the meaning of my life was at the foot of this tree. “

This one is majestic, but it’s not the biggest, nor the oldest in the place, so just think: it’s only 240 years old. But he is unique: it is Quercus. So is he baptized. Faithful advisor, the tree is visited whenever there are important decisions to be made. “For the choice of my studies, the signs have multiplied”: a circle of birds formed above the tree he was sitting against, motionless. A squirrel suddenly appeared in the high branches, while a deer appeared in the undergrowth… So many signs received like a message from nature which encouraged the young man to work for the forest.

In fact, Laurent Tillon is now a forest engineer at the National Forestry Office (ONF), studies ecosystems and monitors biodiversity in forests. But no tree has dethroned Quercus, whom he visits at least every fortnight. “I put my hand on the trunk, I say hello to him. My mind wanders, but it is also a moment when I reflect on my place in this living world ”. And things are swarming in the forest! A thousand insects and small animals are organized at the foot of the trees, there is something for everyone, as long as there is not too much human interference: “We can act to preserve the balance, and it takes time, but there is a way to save species. “

For relatives, one day it was necessary to share this secret garden. Today, Laurent Tillon is going to see Quercus with his 7-year-old daughter. The biologist also confided in a few colleagues from the ONF, to discover that many also experienced a special link to a tree in the forest. “For twenty years, I didn’t dare to talk about it, it’s both strange and so intimate…”, he confesses even though he published last February a book of homage to Quercus (1).

Laurent Tillon finds at the foot of his tree a point of support, a refuge, to move forward: “I am curious about nature and curious about nature”, he blurted out with a frank smile. He is also charmed by the habitat of the great tit, by the flight of dragonflies and fascinated by… bats, of which he is now a specialist, in particular the greater horseshoe bat. Working for some 4.5 million hectares of forest in France and overseas makes you humble and also carries a lot of responsibility: “Our action in the forest is at the heart of the climate issue and we are working for the benefit of something much bigger than us… ” The forest engineer never ceases to rub shoulders with excess: “Quercus has seen a lot of it since he was born. Me, I feel like I’m passing through… ”

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