Little Black Pine in the Foreground
Around the winter solstice I acquired a black pine, a tree that is supposed to grow very well here in the high desert. I brought her to the place I was staying asking her where she wanted to grow on that property. For two months I pondered this question without ever developing clarity because she never answered my query, even as I watched her festoon herself with birds in a protected spot outside my window.
My relationship with all plants is an intimate one and I was puzzled by her silence; I am used to being nudged by my plants usually through a bodily sensing. A few weeks ago I moved down the road a bit. At first I left the tree where it was, albeit with some guilt, feeling as if I had abandoned her.
Because it has been so dry and the tree is in a small pot, I returned to water her and discovered that she had already been watered too much in my absence and was literally drowning in the plastic pot that was still above ground. I had left clear instructions with the man who lived there. I would return to water the tree myself every two weeks so would he please leave the tree alone I pleaded with some desperation. But my request had not been honored. The ground around/beneath her was saturated and the straw and greens that covered the pot were rotting because she had been watered in my absence. Even though it was January green grass was sprouting under the pot. (More plants are killed by over watering than by any disease they might develop).
Worse, the mild winter coupled with too much water had caused this years new buds to sprout prematurely. The tree is also too bright a green for this time of year. The next freeze which will surely come will probably kill this year’s candelabra. Knowing I needed to remove the tree immediately in order to save it I asked my friend Iren to help me rescue her. Today my little tree lives just outside the Trailercita where I can once again visit with her on a daily basis. The pot is slowly drying out and my little pine is sitting next to another black pine, surely her elder, one who has sprouted a multitude of plump pine cones.
The moment we set her down on the ground I had that visceral sense slam through me that my little tree had finally found home. This was the feeling I had been waiting to experience for almost two months…
I didn’t know just why coming here would make such a difference but I do know that trees communicate with one another, assisting each other in times of stress, warning each other about attacks by predatory insects, for example. Trees communicate above ground through scent, vibrations and experience pain and trauma when they lose their neighbors, or are cut down themselves. (if you doubt that trees feel pain, watch a plant closely when it is re -potted – it immediately goes into shock (see passionflower musings on this blog for more on this subject). Tree root systems actually crackle as they communicate and assist each other along with their fungal partners whose web -like mycelium spread information and exchange water and nutrients underground all year long. The prestigious scientific journal Nature has dubbed this phenomena the wood-wide web.
Notably, this communication occurs only with trees and other plants in areas in which are NOT managed by humans. Apparently, human interference has destroyed the web of communication between trees and plants leaving them much more vulnerable to disease and premature death.
Reflecting upon my recent experience with the little black pine I was suddenly struck by revelation. My friend Iren cares deeply for ‘her’ land and allows the high desert scrub, juniper, cottonwoods, russian olives, berry bushes willows and wild grasses to grow naturally. Although she has planted many trees she waters them diligently, and most of her trees are local species. Iren keeps an immaculate vegetable garden but mostly she takes deep pleasure out of watching the earth around her do what S/he needs to do without unnecessary interference. I personally experience the same kind of peace here as I do in old growth forests.
The little tree had come from a place where human interference was rife. Additionally, there were no other black pines in her neighborhood and maybe this lack of close relatives contributed to the loneliness and feeling of separation I experienced coming from that tree.
As soon as we placed her by her new friend I knew that she belonged here. There is no doubt in my mind that the tree was communicating with me, finally answering my question definitively about where she wanted to grow! (Her two month silence had initially confused and eventually unnerved me because I am not used to this lack of communication between plants and myself).
Now whenever I go down to visit her I have a wonderful sense of right relationship. Although one day I will be leaving here, I will depart knowing that the little black pine tree will live on where she truly belongs!