Learning From a Tree
The sprawing tree The crawling tree The one that called and talked to me, tree The old tree The bold tree The one that let me sit and be, tree The dying tree The crying tree The one that claimed I simply didn’t see, tree
When I learned from trees
I took a walk the other afternoon. It was a cold, miserable day and very, very grey – one of those days when venturing forth was unappealing. However, I also recognised that I was going slightly stir crazy having been inside for far too long. I knew I needed to take a walk outside.
I rattled off the benefits of fresh air and nature connection, nodded my head in agreement and went to get ready. On went, the boots, thick coat, hat and scarf and I set out on a quick walk around the block. A walk that would take in the park at the end of the street, where I could quickly breathe in some nature space and head home to the warm.
A 20-minute nature blast and what a blast it was. One of the trees called to me. I kid you not. I reached the edge of the small park. My head was down and my hands were shoved tightly in my pockets as the cold wind assaulted my face. In the middle of the park, a pool of golden leaves strewn on the ground caught my attention; the intense yellow brightening the greyness of the day. Stood quietly to the left of the pool of yellow was a small gnarled tree with twisted branches that formed the shape of a heart. It was this tree that called. I stopped and looked.
Early in the year in the heat of summer, I had spent a few pleasant hours sat on a bench under the taller of the trees – the one who now stood in a pool of golden leaves. In the cooling shade of such a larger friend, I had failed to notice the smaller companion. Now with summers green a yellow cloak on the ground, it was possible to see. I stood for a while, maybe only seconds, studying the texture of the tree’s bark and came to realise that there was not one but two trees. I smiled at the moment and then quietly walked on. Now when I pass the same place in the park again, I will look more carefully and we can continue our conversation.
What I learn from trees
‘…our world is a scared whole in which we have a sacred mission …’ J Macy, M Brown (2014)
The brief meeting caused me to reflect on the many tree friends that I have made in my life and upon the many things I have learned from them. I have always been fascinated by trees and woodlands. Even more so now as I come to learn about the interconnectedness of trees and their ability to communicate with each other. Not with a human voice, but with chemicals and a complex fungal network. Think the Internet, but biological.
As I have grown in my spiritual practises and understanding, I have become more comfortable in the sacred spaces that are outside. I have learned much from slow walks and time spent in nature. My roots sit firmly in a Christian tradition, but just a tree grows and expands into light and space, I have come to find ‘truth’ in ever-expanding places.
Life moves so quickly. There is so much that demands, or holds our attention. I think there is a danger that beliefs, attitudes and habits can become fixed because there is so much ‘information’. We can end up feeling bombarded or overwhelmed, and so emotionally shut down opportunities to see a different perspective.
There are many well-documented health benefits of time spent in the company of trees. Woodlands provide a peaceful and restful place away from the bombardment, allowing time and space for the practice of noticing things. Indeed plenty of time for the trees to teach us many things. This could be as objective or as subjective as your own spiritual practise guides you to.
Noticing, really noticing, is not always easy. You might not like what you see. While what you see, really see, might require a change or an action!
Are you ready for the risk?
Here you will find a simple tree meditation
Do you have tree friends? Please share your expereince and images in the comments section. It would be lovely to know and include them.
Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: The updated guide to The Work that Reconnects (New Society Publishers; 2014), 14