Tree Teachings

200824-big-basin-redwood-fire-ac-956p_c1d4208021b6298472864d5be24b0736.fit-760w.jpg

 

I breathe in

the scent of

moist wooded bogs,

crystal lake waters,

baskets of dew

heavy and sweet

soaking heat

through every pore…

note withered leaves

shriveled mosses

and still

the rains do

not come.

 

The Earth is on Fire.

 

Stagnant pools

shrunken trunks,

the lack of fruiting bodies

falling leaves

a crisped ground

beneath my feet

remind me

that grief must be

felt with as much

awareness as possible

to create the

necessary bridge…

 

My weeping pine

keeps me mindful –

 

The Earth is on Fire.

 

Two thousand year old Redwoods

succumb to flaming

heartwood…

Yet some will live on.

Trees know that

There is nothing they

can do to stop

this holocaust

besides witnessing,

accepting their dying,

leaning into

the Grief of the Earth,

as she yields

to the power of

‘What Is.’

 

 

Working notes:  From the personal to the collective

 

A few days ago I had to take down a pine tree that I loved. Although I did not do the actual cutting I did make the decision to end the tree’s life, so I am the one responsible. My young friend made the cut, felling the tree in just the right direction; his father who was assisting felt a fierce wind hit his face as the tree slammed into the ground just beside him. Indoors, I shuddered involuntarily even as relief flowed through me like a river. It was over.

 

This tree cutting was witnessed by “tree people” – three humans who truly love trees. Afterwards, Marcus came to me. “Are you all right?” I choked back an avalanche of tears. Not (at that moment) for the tree, but for me because, like the tree, I too had just been witnessed by this boy’s sensitivity – For the first time in my 75 years I was not alone with my tree grief. No other words passed between the three of us but the depth of our feelings united us with each other and that tree. Not a shred of separation between us. Amazing, and yet so comprehensible.

 

I felt sorrow over the loss of the tree; but also, strangely, accepting. The next morning I wrote the following about a dream I had and began a tree tale not realizing that we three – father, son and I were still sharing a field. I was not yet alone.

 

Treefall

 

In the dream a giant tree comes down – it has just been cut. I thought the whole tree was alive – but I am surprised to see that half of the tree is already quite dead. I see its gray whale -like body lying supine without its skin. It looked like a piece of driftwood lying on the ground.

 

The night before this event I poured water at the base of the tree as a blessing, gathered herbs to place against her trunk. I lay my hands on rough bark as I spoke … reminiscing about the bear fur I first found scattered around her pine-rooted floor. I told the tree how much I loved the sound of her needles rustling, the intoxicating scent of those that fell to the ground, the “candles” s/he bore in late spring, the masses of pine cones that appeared shortly thereafter. How kindly s/he blocked the heat of the summer sun from the house; how much I loved her. I told her too that I hoped that she would not feel too much pain. I listened then for a response and sensed a stillness; this tree knew what was coming and accepted her dying. There was no answer forthcoming regarding pain… This tree also had a sister/brother tree that would be left standing alone. (I called this marked tree a female but all white pines are monoecious meaning that each tree produces male and female cones).

 

That was as far as I got.

 

An email came in from Marcus a few minutes later that addressed my question: did he feel that trees experienced pain?

 

What follows is his response.

 

“In my experience, I have found that trees certainly do feel pain. The difficulty is in understanding it because the pain the trees feel is only knowable at a visceral level in our bodies. The pain in my body is the tree ‘s pain. The tough part is that because that pain is in my body, it gets mixed up with my own feelings of loss, which makes it immensely challenging to sort through. However, a few weeks ago when I had to cut down an apple tree that was being destroyed by tent caterpillars the separation of this pain was discernable. Once the tree was gone there was an immense release of pain in my body. But even so I still carried the sadness of the tree’s loss…I spent so much time getting to know that apple tree that I could feel it drowning in its own sap because it could no longer photosynthesize. Yesterday was different. I could feel the tree and the split but couldn’t communicate with it as well…I was so nervous and stuck in my own place (we were all nervous – the tree was 167 feet tall). But what I know for certain is that trees accept death much easier than we do… the dying hurts physically but the trees are never scared of death or regretful at what is being left behind. They are much more in touch with the fluidity of their spirituality and with the cyclic nature of life. They understand that death is not an endpoint… Dead trees that have stumps continue to live as they transfer what I think of as their essence, meaning soul, spirit, consciousness to whatever comes next. It is only when the underground network for transference is ripped away that a tree really dies.”

 

I should add that Marcus is a nature mystic, though he doesn’t yet know it. A scholarship to Dartmouth left him feeling as if he didn’t belong and after a year he dropped out. Now he cares for his family’s forest, cuts trees when needed, creates magnificent art from dead trees and trains for the Olympics. He is 21 years old.

 

It stuns me that someone who is 50 years younger than I am could be such a powerful teacher, friend, and the first person I have ever known that feels the way I do about trees and can communicate these ideas/feelings on such an embodied level. I adore him.

 

The following day I learned firsthand about the terrible fires that are ravaging Colorado after talking with a woman who cannot even leave her own house (I have deliberately been avoiding the news).

 

That night I had a catastrophic dream rife with cultural holocaust elements. On a personal level I was about to go under…

 

When I awakened that morning I was so sluggish I could barely move. I dragged myself outside and stood quietly by the tree soaking in her dying scent. Pinenes. Tears were seeping into the heartwood from the still living cambium. I thought of the billions of burning,  slaughtered trees. I felt helpless and quite stupid. Profoundly depressed, I knew enough to stay with the grief as I moved through the day; the trees had taught me well. My body felt like lead. I fell asleep in the early afternoon.

 

The next morning I awakened refreshed; the collective grief had receded because I felt it and didn’t try to hurry it or twist my experience into some bizarre form blurring its painful edges with new age ‘gratitude,’ the most common cultural form of denial used by people to avoid dealing with anguish. I paved my own way to peace and illumination on a personal level by being with others who truly loved trees and allowed themselves to feel their grief as I did. In this process a gift was also given to a dying tree.

 

It interests me that as a ‘tree woman’ that I was still called to feel catastrophic tree grief on a collective level. By avoiding the news (because of Trump) I was also lacking in awareness and knowledge. Our Earth is on Fire, trees are dying by the billions, and these beings need to be witnessed, especially by those who are capable of standing it (so many are not and I think this is part of the problem). It was only after moving through this process a second time around that I could come into a state of peace. Blind acceptance of the death of billions of trees seems out of place in this context. Resignation is not an endpoint. The trees will guide me into whatever comes next. Of this, I am certain.

The Garden

IMG_6087.JPG

IMG_6084

 

We dug baby

cedars from a roadside ditch.

I wanted to save young ones

from be-heading.

We planted them

in a garden

materializing from

from imagination

and fervent tree talk

between soul mates.

Kinship is the word he used.

I “saw” a copse

of cedars spreading out

behind the stone.

 

I thought,

one day, I too

will be buried here

under Trillium rock,

who sprouts arbutus

and twin flowers

wears a carpet

of velvet moss

all year long…

He will care for us

when I am gone.

 

We wrapped

tender seedlings

nestled in sphagnum,

fragrant soil, and aged manure,

covered and watered yet again.

I see tiny rootlets

seeking familiar tendrils –

micorhizzal mycelium

creeping towards

the newcomers.

I hear seedlings cry out

“We’re here!” to a mother

who will nurture them,

sending carbon and minerals

their way.

Extra light too, if needed.

Flattened trees stumps

add rich nutrients;

The sun is tempered

by  gracious hands

– late summer leaves.

Young Mother stands straight

and tall, her voice is clear.

Her bark is not yet shaggy.

Surveying her adopted children,

(like I do him)

conversing through root and scent

the air is sweetened

by a Love not understood

by many, because

Giving is who She is.

Two Rabbits and the Moon – August 12

117141439_3080790028715719_403545268420242302_n

The Cottontail

watched me

climb

a steep hill

to meet her

at the Cross –

road.

 

She split the stone.

Datura delusions emerge

from this bloodline.

I stumble

down down down…

Her feet beat

a mourning drum

I’m in free fall.

 

Tropical mist

chokes mountain air.

What force

can annihilate

this hopeless story?

DSCN0026.JPG

Both Hares

dead – one murdered,

the other abandoned

by the Moon.

 

The Cedar Garden

IMG_5994.JPG

 

I gently tugged

the cedar

seedlings

dislodging them

from wet leaf

sweet decaying

soil, imagining

golden mycelium

threads –

antiviral, antibacterial light

glowing fiercely underground,

ready to heal,

probing for carbon,

transporting water

and minerals

helping new rootlets

to grow,

anchoring these seedlings

securely

to one another

to decaying stumps,

moss covered banks,

so they might thrive

in the Cedar Garden

by the brook.

 

This garden we will create together

by Trillium rock, the place

my dead are buried.

 

It’s peaceful there.

 

He brings me four more cedars

to add to the ones that I

have planted in pots.

“Would I care for them

until we  plant our garden?”

Of course, I reply

with delight.

 

Someday, a cedar

forest will thrive here

because the boy and I

love trees,

hear voices,

breathe in sweet scents,

draw down Her Grace.

He creates art

from tree stumps.

I gift with gratitude

and words.

 

Our bodies cannot contain

the anguish of massive tree loss;

Our dark eyes meet

in silent recognition

of ‘what is’ –

this place beyond weeping.

 

The Earth is crying out…

La Llarona keens;

We see and feel her rising

out of the mist

clouding the brook.

The loss of Our Mother

is incomprehensible.

 

We will plant

a future together

and he will care for

this land when I

am gone…

until it’s time.

The forest loves him.

As I do.

 

In my heart

I can see the trees –

Shaggy trunks

growing straight

and tall –

shaped like giant teardrops,

emerald fronds,

clusters of tight green cones

ripening through a season or two –

then,

bursting brown florets

ejecting seeds

that will land close

to the Mother Trees

that were

once the seedlings

we planted together…

Back to Back

images.jpg

 

The Predator

dug a hole

in turtle’s wake

scooped and

sucked down

pulsing life

one dark night.

An empty pit

and shriveled eggs

mark the theft .

Her children are dead.

 

Vulnerability

and violence

are bed mates

She bears

thirteen squares –

Round House

hovers above her –

Nature’s Protection.

But how can she

puncture the balloon of

his lies

with her body

to feel the strength

of the shield

she owns?

Ravaged

Ravaged…

I am splintering.

Thrice.

Fragments of ice

slice through tender skin

– silver daggers puncture holes

bleed snow.

A frozen tree cracks –

slams tortured timber

across

a forested floor.

Shivering body

swirls in chaotic waters.

Labored breathing forces

Soul Surrender.

Even endurance has limits

I learn.

June 30 2020

 

Seal Skin – Soul Skin

 

This body is

my holy altar

my bounded skin

my embodied soul

my closet kin.

 

July 2 2020

For Leslie

IMG_5320

 

She made me

a birdhouse

from old wood

whispering stories.

Together

we walked to

the edge of

my open field.

She dug

the post in,

creative hands

working

rich soil.

I witnessed

with a grateful heart…

I wondered then

who would come

to nest in this

forest jewel…

dreamed of wrens

or chickadees

peering out

of black holes…

This morning

I realized

that by our actions

we had created

a living prayer…

Like the birds

we too

are seeking

safe homes –

peace for

tortured

minds and

bodies

torn asunder

by a culture

gone insane.

Restoration

TB IN TREE STICKS

 

At dawn

I look for sign.

You are orphaned –

without a mother

to guide you.

Did you find

my offering?

 

Friendship

for one

wearing bearskin

is a risk

you can

no longer take.

 

To be shot at,

trapped,

run down by

stupid men who

fear their own

black souls

is no excuse.

 

Murdering mothers

and children

constitutes atrocity –

like Tree Slaughter

I am forced to witness

the horrors of

human insanity.

 

I wonder

If you know

That Nature

Is starting to

retaliate

on your behalf?

 

This virus

is just the beginning…

Humans will

orchestrate

their demise

through continued

indifference

selfishness…

suffering and dying

just as you have.

 

Unlike your kind

our old ones

will meet death first,

but the tide

is shifting;

Earth seeks wholeness,

redressing imbalance,

And S/he too

can be ruthless

when culling…

 

You are wise

in the ways of Nature

called “Root Healers”-

still reverenced

by some.

 

One day

bears will

thrive in newly

forested landscape,

raise yearlings in peace,

live free of torment,

because the species

that once hunted you

has finally been erased

from the Book of Life.

 

Her Evolving Story

is a Fountain of Hope.

Reversal

 

DSCN0210.jpg

(first sighting of one of the female cardinals this morning)

 

Yesterday a wildflower

unfurled sage

tinted leaves, opened

delicate pearl

petals to a

passionate dawn star…

Its roots of blood

are hidden…

 

In still twilight

I awaken to white.

Wet snow coats

emerald mosses.

Each bare branch

wears a silver shawl.

Evergreens bend low.

The forest is transformed

by frozen sky waters.

 

Crimson cardinals

flash by the feeder,

mama hugs the grass.

Grosbeaks, doves,

finches, chickadees

nuthatches,

serenade those

that listen…

woodpeckers and grouse

drum love songs.

Turkey pecks soaked ground.

 

The waning Flower moon

lightens the powers

of reversal

surprising the stars.

Soon north winds will come

to blow away shivering crystals –

Clouds lift…

Lime green,

cobalt blue,

purple tinted mountains,

sun gold

become center stage.

 

Spring returns.

 

I have be -moaned the problems associated with Climate Change for so long, with so few listening – if any. I am making a shift, (at least on some days) concentrating my energy on seeing the “positive” effects of Climate Change – It is easy to do this when I am present to the moment, and it gives me relief from our dreary socially constructed reality.

Our way – not Nature’s way is ugly in the extreme – even now in a pandemic – the economy before people.

This morning when I awakened to snow I felt joyful although I have never experienced snow this time of year in Maine – Climate Change makes anything possible! At dawn the Earth was peaceful and still  – I wandered through the woods noting the textures of snow covered trees. Later, I watched birds with an equal amount of joy, and got a good look at the elusive female cardinal.IMG_5218.JPG

Now the North wind is blowing, clearing the skies, and my chimes are singing so the effects of the waning wildflower moon are returning us to the season we are “supposed” to be in!

Root Healers

IMG_4909.JPG

 

Before the bears come

chickadees flock to my feeder,

I hear an unfamiliar

avian symphony at dawn –

bird songs a healing balm

for hearts that long…

After years of absence

the barred owl

hoots from forested

green, and gray decaying

trunks hide luscious larvae.

Gentle woodland gods,

Nature’s Root Healers –

Black Bears

will soon awaken.

We are held in

the arms of Nature

Waiting

Two geese fly over the house…

Balsam seedlings sprout from

the forest floor,

bare leaf patches

shrink seed covered snow.

Earth is singing underground.

The sound and sight

of a pristine mountain stream

rippling to the sea

throws me into heartfelt prayer.

I am Home,

my brother’s grave nearby.

It is almost (his) Earth Day…

I have not missed

the croaking wood frogs

or the chorus of peepers

just outside my door.

 

Under threat of Death***

the dark man drives,

his biting blue eyes

seduce the innocent.

I am afraid.

Irresponsibility,

Entitlement,

Obstruction,

Invisibility,

Power reigns.

 

Yet gratitude flows.

A thatched bird’s nest

perches on a ledge

sheltered by grey logs…

Tree buds swell

Hope, and the thought

of delicate wildflowers

birth potential joy.

A brimming toad pond

awaits green frogs.

Lily b sings a Love Song –

his benediction

for this turning.

May the

Root Healers Come…

 

 

*** this dark man has shown up in my dreams all my life as a blue eyed killer/rapist – but here this force seems even more sinister – “man” is an image of the collective killer – male and female – and the C/virus that we have brought upon ourselves in our arrogance and stupidity.

Postscript…

 

Black bears are known by Indigenous peoples as the most powerful root healers of the forest – for good reason – they know how to heal their own wounds – and where to find the herbs that heal… may they come…