Last night I was sitting out on the porch listening to the rain. The sweet scent of water wafted in through the open window as the song Tree of Life was playing softly in the dark. In my heart I was thanking each and every tree, especially those trees that surrounded the house for their protective canopies and for their steadfast love and support over so many years… My Trees had become Sisters; we developed deeply personal relationships and more fluid boundaries over time. These friendships, already established with apple trees as a child and young woman, intensified in my early 40’s when my children first left home.
Trees and plants gradually taught me how to respect myself as a woman who had been rejected by her family, although I have no idea how they accomplished this feat. All I know is that at some point I was no longer able to separate my love for trees/plants from this woman that I was coming to respect. Both trees and plants often came to me in dreams, and occasionally a tree would utter a single word or two while I was walking in the forest, but mostly I just felt all of them caring about me. I am convinced that trees also brought me two women who became the sisters I never had… My gratitude for all plant life was peaking as the song was playing, a visceral response to the rain, the night, the stillness, and my enduring love for trees and plants.
It was in this frame of mind that I first heard something singing. Assuming it must be an unknown tree frog I went to screen and opened it. Strangely the sound seemed to be coming from the west, so I was surprised that the song didn’t increase in intensity when I stepped outdoors. I came back in and opened a west window in my bedroom – nothing. Returning to the porch I just stood there baffled. Where was the song coming from?
Earlier, that evening I brought in my Sacred Datura plant to protect her from possible heavy winds and the coming rain and placed the large ungainly pot on the porch table for the night.
After bringing her across country all the way from New Mexico (much to my companion’s dismay) and settling her outdoors in Maine, I watched her first fragrant moon blossom open just days after we arrived. I tended her lovingly, carefully removing any damaged leaves, watered her frequently, fertilized her, and told her how beautiful she was, remembering how I had nurtured her as a germinating seed… All summer this plant has had blossoms most of which open around dusk much to my continuous astonishment and delight. I discovered that I could actually watch as each flower unfurled, beginning with a lavender tinted spiral that would open into the most exquisite lavender tipped moonflower within about 15 – 20 minutes if I paid close attention. Needless to say I am in love with this Lady of the Night.
When I walked towards the Datura in the dark last evening, the singing suddenly stopped. I stood there rooted to the floor. Stunned. It had been the plant that was singing. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing. When the Datura began her song again as I stood before her, I turned on a light. The singing ceased. Darkness brought the song to life again. I listened intently, awed slipping into another state of awareness, “the space in between” where time ceases to exist, and now is all there is.
Later, as I returned to a normal state of consciousness my mind buzzed, sending me to the computer to research relationships between the Datura and bugs because by then it had dawned on me that it must have been insects that were singing from somewhere inside that plant!
I researched what botanists called mutualism and what I call relationships that develop between plants and insects ( isn’t it amazing the lengths humans will go to distance themselves from other non -human species?). Thus far I have learned that the tomato hornworm loves the alkaloids that are present in Datura and gains protection from feasting on the leaves of this poisonous plant. Both the water scorpion (Nepa cinerea) and the saucer bug (Ilyocaris) have relationships with this plant, and night scarabs hide in the blossoms and emit a buzzing sound but no blossoms were open last night. I learned that leaf notchers puncture holes in the leaves that I had been carefully removing all summer. I also already knew that the Datura plant is only pollinated by the Hawk Moth, which is present in Maine as well as the desert areas in which Datura grows naturally.
But who was doing the actual singing remains a mystery. Evidently, I am going to have to do a lot more research to identify the chorus!
Last night after this remarkable incident I had a simple little dream:
I am with my brother Davey who is very young in the dream although I am my present age. My brother’s hair was shorter than it was at the time of his suicide. I am introducing him to many others and I am so proud and happy I could burst.
When I awakened from this dream I felt heartsick with grief because even though Davey has been dead since he was 21 (and I was 24) I still think of him constantly. I will miss him all days of my life… If he had lived we could have shared what would have been a whole life together… I mourn too because he was my soul mate. And when he died, some part of me died with him.
Reflecting on the possible meaning behind this dream I suddenly remembered that the one thing Davey and I did not share in our brief naturalist lives together was his love of bugs. And last night, I probably had a visitation from some kind of singing insect. Might this incident have been my brother contacting me from beyond the grave?
In my world where plants start singing in the rain of their own accord, virtually anything is possible.
I am still unable to track down an explanation for this “singing” Datura after many hours of research. I have reached the conclusion that maybe no one has heard this plant singing before?
What I didn’t know at the the time was that this experience preceded a potentially life – changing personal event in my life that involved “breaking ground” in New Mexico that occurred the following day.
What follows below are the words to the song that was playing when the plant started singing.
TREE OF LIFE
Beggar’s Blocks and Blind Man’s Fancy,
Boston Corners and Beacon Lights,
Broken Starts and Buckeye Blossoms
Blooming on the Tree of Life.
Cho: Tree of Life, quilted by the lantern light,
Every stitch a leaf upon the Tree of Life.
Stitch away, sisters, stitch away.
Hattie’s Choice (Wheel of Fortune), and High Hosanna (Indiana),
Hills and Valleys (Sweet Wood Lilies)
and Heart’s Delight (Tail of Benjamin’s Kite),
Hummingbird (Hovering Gander) in Honeysuckle (Oleander),
Blooming on the Tree of Life.
We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,*
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on the Tree of Life.
* I would add someone’s sister.
The Datura literally sang over this song, forcing me to turn off the music to understand the strange music that I was hearing.
I must add that I knew the singer Gordon Bok as a young girl who came to Monhegan Island ME on the Victory Chimes to sing his songs at the schoolhouse. Trained as a classical guitarist Gordon fell in love with the sea and began his career which continues to this day as a folksinger. I have loved his work all my adult life, and in particular this song.