Hey Folks: I think I just wanted to tell you about Tree. Does anyone else on the list talk to trees? I do, I must admit.
Tree: A personal obituary.
There was a tree in the park along the lake. She wasn't an unusual tree in any respect really, at least not to anyone that didn't know her well. Anyone who hadn't spent time with his back against her trunk, or watched dusk fall from her branches. She wasn't particularly big, or an unusual color, or spectacularly shaped. She wasn't rooted in any uniquely beautiful spot in the park, just there by the side path, on the edges of a large field where children sometimes play sports. But she (though her presence was neither male nor female, or perhaps both, much like an angel) had become my friend.
I don't remember what first attracted me to Tree (as I imaginatively called her). I think I was just biking along, on my way home from somewhere, taking the scenic route through the park, when I saw Tree and felt like she was calling to me. So I went. I introduced myself, in the way an elf (or a "crazy" person) might. I talked to Tree, and in response I felt the calm, rooted presence of one who silently observes much. From that day on, I would visit Tree every now and then. Sometimes I would just send a hello from the path as I whizzed by. Often I would stop, just to touch her trunk, to smell her treeness, even (I admit with some self-consciousness) to taste her bark with my tongue.
On Earth Day I rode my bike to Tree and kissed her (not caring about passers-by) and laid brilliant orange flower petals around her base.
I watched with joy as Tree's leaves came back this spring. I told her how absolutely beautiful she was.
Today as I was riding home on my bike, I rode in the park. I rode past the field and looked over to say hi to Tree, to send her my usual customary greeting. But I couldn't see her. At first I thought I was at the wrong field and that I would come upon her shortly, but as I did a double take I saw the stump. I rode over and stared. Why they had cut her down I don't know. I felt a loss. I put down my bike and sat on the stump, knowing that I was sitting inside what had been Tree's body.
I'll miss her, though I wonder if anyone else even noticed her disappearance. I guess I'll never know why they cut her down. As I rode home, I looked around at all the other trees. I realized how each one is special, each one holds the power of the presence of one who silently observes. I had just happened to meet and befriend, and love, one in particular.
So Tree, now people as far away as New Zealand know that you existed. And that you were special to me.
Hi Leif... As it just so happens, the assignment I'm writing up for an ecopsych class, and having trouble wording... which is why I'm reading through this list at the moment... took place in my thinking tree, and I have a direction tree on San Juan Island, and the tree I first really sensed/heard/communed with, a Banyan outside of Hana on the Island of Maui.
You're in Chicago, huh? I know the area you're talking about, and may have even played around Tree 30 years ago. Yeah, trees can be pretty powerful creatures.
Leif, I share your sorrow, and mourn the passing of your friend. _dave_(consciously aware of conscious-raising awareness)
Leif, I'm sorry about tree. Yes lots (?all) of us love trees and hug and speak with them.
The Ice journal has Betsy's deposition to the court when she was charged for defending 4 great oaks.
And Uri was instrumental in the fight to save Salt Spring island from logging He asked us for submissions on why it was right to break the law to save trees. John Scull collated them.
I was at Laurieston in Scotland last week, a community and little organic farm and host to wonderful events. This was Harmony singing and one highlight was learning a song called Great Trees and singing it outdoors to them. Anyone heard it? I'll send to the list if you'd like. Perhaps it's time for a gatherings edition devoted to trees?
Hi Leif, I want to reach out to you in your grief, which I share. All of nature is deserving of our care, reverence, and love, but trees, like whales, bears, and apes, are powerful exemplars of the beauty and majesty of nature.
Beside my house is a huge old western red cedar -- I often read aloud to it. I learned to do this in one of Mike Cohen's ecopsychology courses and the habit has stuck. The tree is a good listener and often has profound and helpful comments. It's too big to hug.
I grew up in Southern California where trees are very rare, much like Chicago, and as a result I always thought of them as sacred. I came to British Columbia in the early 1970s. There are lots of trees here, and most people here at that time treated trees as a commodity -- an infinite supply of "fibre". Only in the last 15 years or so has it entered the public consciousness in a big way that trees are sacred. Now we're trying to convince the logging companies.
When you move to the NW, you will learn to join us in mourning the loss of whole watersheds of trees. Love, John
I've talked to trees as long as I can remember. Outside my window as I write this is a red maple I planted as a spindly, mis-shapen sapling in 1976. It is now a glorious, over-my-roof wonder. It makes the morning light green entering my study. It harbors a robin and chicadee family. In the fall, it turns scarlet and scatters a gazillion children.
I take my History of Theatre class (3rd year college) to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambirdge, Massachusetts, as a kind of stress-buster on the last day of class, two days before finals. There is an ancient beech tree there (especially fond of beeches) that it takes at least six adults to reach around, and if you press your ear I swear you can feel it tremble in the embrace. Happy to be crazy, phoebe
Loving trees, mourning over the loss of every one, let alone the loss of entire watersheds -- that's one thing. How can one help this? (And surely the presence of grief is evidence of relationship.)
And Betsy has convinced me of the reality of erotic... uhh... attachment ... to trees.
But reading to trees? Talking with trees? I hate to be the garlic in the soup, but I'm not sure that such activities don't diminish the meaning of relationship.
From an ecopsych viewpoint, the relationship must be real, sacred, and, more or less, equal. I don't believe trees hear us, care about us, or, well, use language at all.
This doesn't mean we can't have a "sacred relationship" with trees -- we can, and, IMO, should. But I can't shake the feeling that assuming the relationship is mediated by human language somehow diminishes the relationship.
(In ecopsychology -- "psychoecology" -- classes I taught in the 1970's and 80's one of the assignments usually was to "become intimate" with a species other than your own. Often the class wits would pick their boy- or girl- friends. Many would pick trees, or a favorite house plant. One woman picked a cactus plant (actually, a peyote plant, I believe). Her account changed my view of "relating to nature".
She first tried the usual things: played music to the plant, talked with it, meditated with it -- tried to feel love for it, and convey it with various facial expressions, and human sounds. Nothing. Nothing reciprocal, no relationship. Then it dawned on her (pun intended) that the cactus' main mode of functioning was via light. So, when she came home to her room, she'd turn the light on and off in rapid succession. Voila!
She immediately felt a connection -- but then she realized that the light/dark periodicity of the cactus was _very_ slow -- say, every twelve hours, and by flashing the light, she was "driving the cactus crazy", as she put it. About that time she disappeared from class for several weeks, and finally confronted me with ... "do you have ANY idea how your little assignment is destroying my life?" (Apparently she "went crazy" and, in order to _really_ relate to the cactus, she began hanging out with it, going through the light/dark cycles with it, 24/7))
So, since then, I've wondered -- about the "depth" or "realness" of such activities as The Council of All Beings, of talking with trees, and the like. I'm sure it can be therapeutic for we humans; but I can't help wondering what it does for the other species. Is this just a therapeutic move, or a political move (when last in Scotland with John Seed I brought this up and he laughed, and said, "of course ... but it gets people started, gets them thinking about what we're doing to other species. I found this valid, but also strangely unsettling. I think if it's a truly reciprocal relationship we're seeking -- the heart of the EP therapeutic program -- rather than something _projected_ from ourselves _onto_ the other species, then we might consider some interchange, some communion, that can be truly shared by both parties.
For me, at present, that communion is basically to plant as many trees -- every week, every month -- that I can; and not to cut down trees when tempted.
And then, to listen to the wind at night -- for without trees, I wouldn't be able to hear the wind. Trees make wind audible. Not in words, or "music" (as I know it anyway) but in beautiful swishing sounds that are unique to the human-tree relationship. We call it sighing.
Sometimes I wonder if the tree is expressing pleasure at having rushes of CO2 flood its needles -- but, there it is again, projection.
But I ramble, and the cold rain has, momentarily stopped, and I need to go out among the soaking garlic and ask it what it wants me to do!
Sometimes, fey-ness arises when grief floods the eyes with tears. Robert G.
Dear Robert I believe a relationship with a tree is of course very different from a relationship with a human, or even, say, a cat, who has ears and will hear my voice. But does prayer diminish one's relationship with the divine? Does God (assuming S/He exists) have ears that hear our voices? And what of those who talk to their deceased loved ones? Are they too diminishing the meaning of relationship because the loved one no longer has a physical body in which to hear the words?
If the purpose of talking to a tree is to have the tree hear and understand my (English) language in exactly the meaning that I am conveying, then I may actually be using the tree as a prop in order to talk to myself. But if I believe, somehow, that the tree benefits from my intention, then it is more in the line of prayer or speaking to the ancestors. Is that not sacred relationship?
And moreover, who is to say that Tree is not talking to me in its own way? Is Tree then diminishing our relationship merely because I don't hear it's way of communicating.
And who is to say that I don't sense the intent? leif
I don't (believe trees hear us, care about us, or, well, use language at all.) either, but reading a passage to a being that has been standing and growing and living in the same place since before I was born often gives me an entirely different slant on the words. I would describe the process as "quoting in context". Love, John
Someone reminded me the other day of a scene from the movie "Children of a Lesser God," about a hearing-impaired woman's and a hearing man's relationship. In the scene they are standing on the beach and he is saying to her that he wishes she could hear the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore.
She indicates she does hear it, and proceeds to demonstrate by pounding her hands over her body in a sound remarkably similar to the sound of the waves.
I stood by a tree in early March, during a ritual developed by some college students in a deep ecology class, to honor the element of water. We were by the river, and it was raining lightly, and part of the ritual was to go off alone with senses open. I went to stand by a tree, and I didn't speak to it, but I did find myself wondering how the water felt to the tree, falling on its branches and bark (no leaves then). Not like it felt to me, surely, but it seemed certain that there was some way that the tree experienced the rain. Perhaps it felt it more as tiny beats against its body, than as wetness, or coolness.
It seems a lot of this could relate to vibration. Perhaps the human voice vibrates the air around a tree not unlike the way that Marlee Matlin felt the vibration of the crashing waves on her body. The eardrum is a vibrating piece of tissue; for us who hear, its vibrations are translated into sounds.
But sound vibrates against all of our tissue, only we aren't usually as much aware of it. I wonder how a human voice does "feel" to a tree. In keen awareness of the danger of projection, I won't attempt to describe what it might be like; but I'm confident there is some kind of impact. Betsy
I feel everything has a vibrational signature. I think of any communing with trees or nature not as a transference or understanding, but an overlapping of vibrational or energy signatures or fields. These fields either mesh or clash. I'm sure this energy convergence is very subtle but can be felt. Duncan
Hello Robert, from the other side of the Sound...
Ok, romanticism can get neurotic, and for me "talk" is just shorthand for "nonverbal sensory communion", since I am talking to you all about the experience and that is the protocol we use.
And I like garlic in soup :-) (Speaking of which, I hope yours is alright... this is too much rain even for my roses. The strawberries seem to be loving it, though.)
Language is the primary communication tool of humans. Even when connected, in order to share the non-verbal sensory experience, or even to try to make sense of it ourselves, we have no choice but to put it into language. But why am I telling you this? You quote Dewey often enough to know it already :-)
Taking questions into Nature, when you can arrive at that quiet, balanced point of harmony -- when the maximum number of senses are resonating without odd harmonics like a minor chord with a diminished 13th and a flatted 7th -- allows a centering of thought and a powerful clarity in determining the right course of action. But I don't think that language is mediating the relationship, only how we come to consciously understand it.
In fact, I have a quote here: "Mind is an immanent property of the Universe". do you know who it's from :-)
What other word than talk should be used when minds connect? Especially in the way in which most of us are using it in the current context of relating our experiences with the other-than-human.
How many peyote buttons did this cactus have before the experiment, and how many were left when the experiment was over.
By sharing their wisdom, they get a more balanced individual who is less likely to harm their habitat. I really don't think this is projection. _dave_(working on becoming more balanced in harmonious actualization)
In thinking of our relationship with, say, trees, one realizes that _communicating_ with trees is a subset (or aspect?) of _relationship_ and certainly using human language is a subset of communication.
Right so far?
So ... Relationship with a non-human being ... is that not the (or a) central question?
Ray: "humans decide how to be in tune with,"
Leif: "does prayer diminish one's relationship with the divine?"
Leif: "if I believe, somehow, that the tree benefits from my intention, then it is more in the line of prayer or speaking to the ancestors. Is that not sacred relationship?
John: " reading a passage to a being that has been standing and growing and living in the same place since before I was born often gives me an entirely different slant on the words. I would describe the process as "quoting in context".
Betsy: "Perhaps the human voice vibrates the air around a tree not unlike the way that Marlee Matlin felt the vibration of the crashing waves on her body. The eardrum is a vibrating piece of tissue; for us who hear, its vibrations are translated into sounds. But sound vibrates against all of our tissue, only we aren't usually as much aware of it. I wonder how a human voice does "feel" to a tree... ...I'm confident there is some kind of impact."
Duncan: "I feel everything has a vibrational signature. I think of any communing with trees or nature not as a transference or understanding, but an overlapping of vibrational or energy signatures or fields. These fields either mesh or clash. I'm sure this energy convergence is very subtle but can be felt."
Dave P. "'talk' is just shorthand for "nonverbal sensory communion", since I am talking to you all about the experience and that is the protocol we use."
Dave P. "Taking questions into Nature, when you can arrive at that quiet, balanced point of harmony -- when the maximum number of senses are resonating without odd harmonics like a minor chord with a diminished 13th and a flatted 7th -- allows a centering of thought and a powerful clarity in determining the right course of action. But I don't think that language is mediating the relationship, only how we come to consciously understand it.
Being in tune with . . . /
Being with ancestors/
Open to their contexts/
Without knowing what that is/
Yet we do!
Sounds as vibrations/
Vibrations other than sound/
... into "energy signatures"
.... into "fields
... all beings dancing
-- in the dark
-- in the light
-- within sounds
-- in utter silence
There is something there in the forest, beyond our senses ...
A context for love?
I wonder if, via language there are any ways to get closer to the heart/essence of the relationship we're touching on here. Do we not just exchange the approximations of one "field of study" with another? Or is this where we leave language behind and simply go to that place of centering where awareness tells us the truth of the relationship?
Sorry for meandering -- but this is a rare treat for me: my favorite area of discussion, falling from the sky like Snow Falling on Cedars ... Robert Greenway
Robert thank you for your beautiful poem/words.
I'm enjoying the talking with trees debate. It seems somehow odd to try to find the one right or respectful way of dealing with our relationship with trees. Just as we each have many parts of our self, we have the ability to let these parts speak their truth in different ways.
Sometimes I use spoken language to awaken my sense of relationship with a tree, and at other times, perhaps "more centered" moments, I simply sit or vibrate or listen to tree. Or dance with it's moving, "sighing" branches. Or spread petals around it's base as a sign of honor and love. Leif
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