Born and raised in France, Alice is an artist and Modern Languages postgraduate student at the University of Oxford. Alice started sharing her drawings after being diagnosed with autism and ADHD, she aims to break stereotypes about gender, age, and race that surround autism and cause a lot of misunderstanding. She is the founder and president of the UCL autism society and has been involved in numerous talks and campaigns about neurodiversity, autistic women and mental health.

Describe the nature around you at the moment

I've recently moved to Oxford to start a postgraduate degree. What strikes me is the trees in the colleges of the University. They are incredibly beautiful. Rising tall over the walls of the colleges, these old monarchs with a lush crown have been watching over thousands of students throughout the centuries. They are guardians of the colleges and give a soul to the cold stone buildings of the university. It's amazing to think about how many students these trees have sheltered from the rain and the sun.

How does nature guide or influence your work?

I draw a lot of trees. I'm not sure why. I find them reassuring and I am fascinated if not obsessed by the texture of trees. That's why I detail a lot the lines of the bark and of the branches, the knots in the trunk and how the roots interlace. I often draw trees when I get anxious because I think there is something almost magical to the ways in which nature is so beautiful irregular, disorganised and unpredictable yet forms a coherent whole where everything works together. The irregularities or the bark, the twisted branches, unruly roots and patchy foliage form the most beautiful and complex work of art.

What lessons have you learned from nature?

Things don't end, they just change. The end of something is the beginning of another. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it both case it will pass. Nature helps a lot with grieving, and accepting loss, change and letting go. Yet there is something reassuring about the presence of trees, old trees in particular. Everything is in slow motion in the world of trees, they can live for centuries, immobile, they are one of the rare living beings that do not migrate or move around.

What commonalities have you learned or noticed between autism and nature?

I've got autism and ADHD and I like thinking of nature as a good example of living with both conditions: both very logical and repetitive yet disorganised and extravagant.

Which song, book or poem nurtured your relationship with nature?

Tolkien's work. Trees play such an important role in his work, from the two trees of Valinor in The Silmarillion to the Old Man Willow in The Hobbit and the Ents in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's writing gives a soul to forests and depicts trees as living, intelligent beings, everlasting symbols of the past still living among us. He captures forests' remarkable inter-connectedness, the mysterious whispers of the trees, although when he wrote those books, there was not as much knowledge and research about arboreal communication and trees' interdependent relationships in forests. He gives a sense of the quiet alliances trees form through numerous intricate networks of electrical and hormonal communication comparable to the human brain, that science is only beginning to discover.

Which rituals do you practise to keep you grounded?

I love going on long evening strolls in the parks or walking through a forest and to be surrounded by trees. I tend to day dream, gently touch they bark and brush against their leaves, listen to the wind in the branches and the squeaking of the squirrels chasing after one another.

What question would you like to ask the next person on #TNK?

How does nature help you overcome everyday difficulties?

What initiative have you heard of recently that you'd like everyone to support?

Greta Thunberg's campaign raising awareness to the climate emergency. Greta has highlighted the urgent need for concrete action to reduce our CO2 footprint and fight climate change. She shed light on the insufficiency of the measures taken by people in power to attempt to protect the environment and on the dangers of fake labels of 'green energy' and so-called 'renewable energy'. Greta does not hesitate to speak up and challenge those in power. I admire her sense of duty and I find her willpower and moral principles inspiring.

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