Tree of Life

IMG_4581.JPG

 

Full Seed Moon 3/9/20

 

I see a beautiful fruit tree that is in full bloom with delicate pink blossoms and a man comes and attacks it violently – Oh, all the blossoms fall away, drifting tears cover the ground. Before this the little tree had bloomed “forever,” but man brought death to the blossoming tree and to the tree of life itself.

 

Little interpretation is necessary to understand this dream on a collective level. The Tree Holocaust is upon us. The Anthropocene is destroying more forests every second. Billions of trees. The lungs of the earth. The Beings that gift us with rain. We have less than three percent of intact forest left on this planet.

 

“Man” represents the age of the Anthropocene – each one of us – male or female. Every human being on this earth is complicit in tree obliteration and the terrifying violence associated with this slaughter. It’s important to note that the tree is weeping. My sense is that the tree isn’t just weeping for being murdered but that s/he is weeping for those who would annihilate her/him.

 

The most chilling part of this dream from my point of view is that once the little tree bloomed “forever.’ Forever suggests timelessness – mythology routinely breaks through the artificial walls that separate diverse peoples from one another, and the way humans experience time with stories that include this word that transcends time. Past, present, future, merge simultaneously into the eternal Now – or did, but in the dream this reality has broken down irrevocably.

 

Mythologically, the image/story/pattern of the Tree of Life is found in every culture. This is surely no accident. Indigenous peoples across the globe have been in a loving, respectful reciprocal relationship with trees since the dawn of humankind; each group has its own sacred tree and all trees are considered holy beings. Intuitively, and through reciprocal relationship these humans have known for millennia that we depend upon these beings for life.

 

The Tree of Life as a pattern also indicates wholeness and inclusiveness. Note that many images of the tree of life like the one that I am using here – my Huichol string painting – also includes animals, birds and insects.

 

Postscript

 

Today it is no longer easy to dismiss trees as the background furniture of our lives or sneer at various mythologies because of their primitive ideas because we have learned that without trees humans will eventually cease to exist… Two other dreams have reiterated to me recently, “we are in too deep, and love is not enough.”

 

One hopeful personal note:

 

All winter the cottonwood trees have been “talking” to me in the Bosque, through my senses/and through the air by means of telepathy – a kind of instant communication without words. They tell me how thirsty they are, how much they love being seen and loved. They repeat that they accept their dying, and that new trees of another kind will replace them at some point in the future, although it won’t be soon. A healing balm flows through me as I listen with my heart to their plight. Because of them, acceptance flows through me like the river that parallels the Bosque, although sadness lingers because I love them and all their relatives so much.

 

Sometimes in the Bosque I also see dead grasses pulsing pin-points of light – like fireflies under my feet – they keep me focused on the ground – inner sight – insight?

 

Lately though the trees have fallen silent and the grasses no longer glow.

 

Now my dreams repeat what I see as well as the messages I have receive in the Bosque – that protective bark is falling away from dying trees, leaves are yellowing/dropping because of drought, and that death is on the horizon for most trees through the Southwest as desertification intensifies. In contrast in another dream I learn that elsewhere pockets of dark tree greening can still be found; I interpret this as hope that some trees may live on regardless of human stupidity. If we could save the trees; we could save ourselves. The reverse is equally true. If we save ourselves (and it’s humans that are in desperate need of healing the split between themselves and the rest of nature), the trees will survive.

For Love of Trees

image1.jpeg

 

Yesterday I dreamed that I discovered a bird’s nest that was hidden in the center of an evergreen tree. This little dream moved me deeply because this is the time of year I celebrate my love and gratitude for all trees, but especially evergreens, and the dream felt like an important message. For me, the “Tree of Life” is also an evergreen at least during the winter months.

 

Outdoors, I recently placed a glass star in the center of my newly adopted Juniper here in New Mexico, repeating a pattern that began in Maine years ago with my Guardian Juniper in whose center I also placed a star…Inside the house an open circle made from a completely decayed tree trunk sits at the center of my Norfolk Pine. Indoors both boughs and tree are festooned with tiny lights. The point of these making these gestures was/is to remind me that tree bodies are sacred in their wholeness and each tree explicates the immanence of divinity. Another way of saying this is to say that Natural Power lives in trees.

 

I do not believe in god.

 

But the reality of “Natural Power” is an ongoing force in my life. When I am deeply troubled I turn to trees or birds or animals for help, and they always respond, although often it takes me a long time to understand their messages, mostly because my intellect and cultural conditioning gets in the way of intuition, sensing, and feeling.

 

Sometimes dreams help me to bridge the gap, and when I dreamed that the tree held a nest I felt a great comfort moving through me…

 

It seemed to me that the dream was showing me that the “little bird woman self” (most vulnerable personality) has a safe place to rest within the protected boughs of the evergreen, also her Tree of Life.

 

Because I am living in two worlds and must find a way to move between both, I am by necessity a “snow bird” migrating with the seasons. Thus, it means a great deal to me that I have a place to feel contained and nurtured among fragrant boughs anywhere I go.

 

The tree and her nest may be hidden, but it is there, and I found it.

 

Perhaps I have found home, after all.

Norfolk Pine: How to Save a Tree During the Holidays

Close up of author’s “Tree of Life”

 

As a young child I remember going to tree farms to choose the beloved Christmas tree of the year. The fragrant scent of balsam was the last gift the annual tree presented us with as her needles dried, turned brown and dropped. I always remember feeling so sad that the tree was left to die after lighting up the house with twinkling lights.

 

When I married and moved to Monhegan Island, ten miles off the cost of Maine, I cut down my own Christmas tree in the forest. Since we had no electricity the tree was festooned with candles and homemade ornaments – I can still recall how beautiful that first tree was and after Christmas I couldn’t bare to throw it out so I made all kinds of bird treats and placed them on the tree outdoors, a tradition I continued until the day came when I couldn’t stand to cut one more tree to the ground…

 

At this point the first live tree, a Norfolk Pine, came to live with us. With a profound sense of relief flooding me, my new friend also became our Christmas tree, a tree that lived on long after the season ended. I didn’t miss the scent of balsam because I continued to go into the forest every year to tip boughs for at least three wreaths – one for outdoors, the other two to use in the house (proper tipping actually encourages new growth). I was astonished and delighted by the tree’s beautiful weeping branches and straight trunk, although I was a bit astounded at how fast she grew. I loved that tree and was also so grateful because she had solved the problem of tree slaughter for me.

 

When I first began celebrating the winter solstice after my children were in late adolescence, the tree complied quite happily. I still had my grandmother’s miniature white lights that always stayed cool when lit, so every year she continued to light up the night… I now understood because of my academic study of world mythology, that for me, this indoor tree embodied so much more than the season’s turning – She was the “Tree of Life.” No wonder I had such difficulty chopping down and throwing out trees, year after year.

 

When I moved from the coast to the western mountains of Maine that tree went with me. She was getting too big for me to lift, and I had to get help re –potting her. In the summer she loved being outdoors although the first year I gave her a sunburn by accident. I discovered she preferred the north side of the house.

 

Divorced, with absentee adult children I continued to drape her with lights for each winter solstice until the year my grandmothers lights stopped working. After that I stopped lighting my tree because I was afraid the new hot lights would stress and burn her needles. Instead I placed small animals and birds among her branches and hung crystals from her boughs.

 

Most exciting to me this year is that my new Norfolk Pine (who is actually a small forest of trees given to me by friend Iren) has chosen to sprout new growth in the fall instead of during the spring, possibly because I re-potted her in June, or because this tree “knows” that this is the season I celebrate all trees. Maybe both. The edges of her fronds are deep emerald green and bushy green sprouts top each tree. My bond with her/them runs deep, like a great underground river of song. I mist her every morning, touch her fronds and talk to her. With long starry nights upon us I have ringed her base with lights as I celebrate the joy of loving all trees even as the trees outdoors slip into their winter sleep…

 

With the holiday season approaching I am asking people who do buy live trees for their houses in the U.S. to consider a Norfolk Pine as their tree of choice. Large numbers of Norfolk Island Pines are produced in south Florida for the houseplant industry. The bulk of these are shipped to grocery stores, discount retailers and garden centers during November so these trees can be found everywhere. One caveat: Many are sprayed with a light coating of green paint or sliver/ gold glue prior to sale. Beware of spraying. This process will weaken and eventually kill the tree because it cannot photosynthesize. Also be aware of the fact that even a tabletop tree will eventually need more and more space. The one I have now is about as tall as I am and it occupies a pot that sits on the floor.

Here are a few tips from a plant woman who has been growing these trees for 40 some years:

Norfolk Pines need protection from direct sunlight especially in the southern states. They love a room full of indirect light, skylights etc. but will not tolerate direct sun unless it’s in the winter (or unless you are willing to expose the tree very gradually to sunlight over a period of weeks). Feed your tree a good fertilizer every three months except during November, December, and January, the months trees need to rest. Be careful with watering. Pay attention to your tree! Don’t let your pine get too dry. Don’t leave standing water in the pot that lasts more than a few hours. An over watered tree will slowly lose precious roots to rot. At first you will note that the tree has little or no new growth during the spring months, and finally one day (this can take years) you will find it has fallen out of its pot quite rootless. In the winter especially, mist your tree daily; the tree will appreciate the moisture. I re pot only when the tree’s roots are sticking out of the bottom of the container, preferably in the fall. Once a tree gets too large re- pot in the same sized pot after pulling away some roots to make space for new soil. If you follow these simple steps you will have a tree purifying the air in your house, and a delightful Christmas/Solstice/ Tree of Life to accompany you through those long winter nights for years to come.

Tree of Life

IMG_2806.JPG

 

Every culture sanctifies trees. Some are believed to have spirits that live within their roots, trunks, and branches. Sometimes the god of vegetation is a tree – often a pine as in Greek Mythology. Although many different trees symbolize the Tree of Life in different cultures all symbolize the interconnection between the two worlds, that of the mundane and the sacred. With its roots in the earth, its trunks extending upward and its branches reaching to the sky the worlds become one. Perhaps most important the tree is the symbol of “everlasting” Life, not in the Christian sense but in the sense that life is always in a state of renewal. No wonder trees are holy. (My twenty six year old dove, Lily b, sings out as I write the above words at 2 AM in the morning reaffirming this truth. We have a telepathic connection that extends back to when I first got him and realized this bird could read my mind).

 

Trees converse with those who listen to them. There is one Yaqui myth that tells the story of the People coming upon a tree whose vibrations made a sound that no one could understand. An old wise woman lived deep within the forest and she sent her daughter to listen to what the tree was saying. The tree told her that Christians were coming with a new religion. The people were distressed and some left to dwell underground taking the old ways with them into the earth where the roots of the trees could keep them safe. The People who remained became the Yaqui. Native peoples of this land hold the tree as sacred, and here in Northern New Mexico boughs are used as part of the regalia by the Pueblo people during the winter dances to symbolize the powers of Nature and the  sanctity of the Forest.

 

Every year a tree, usually an evergreen “calls” out to me capturing my attention involuntarily, without words through some kind of vibration or sense. Yesterday, this happened in a greenhouse with Pinus nigra, the black pine. This evergreen is native to Austria and Northern Italy (my Italian roots may have called me to her) and it was brought to this country in the mid 1700’s and as I discovered later, it is one of the best trees to grow in the high desert! I knew nothing about the tree initially, but the second I saw it I knew it was the one.

 

This tree will be the first to be planted here at Casita del Oso, or the House of the Bear, when the casita is finished. Meanwhile, she has also become my tree of life for this year. Shaped like a pyramid, thick with dense long needles she stands about three feet high and this morning I festooned her with red, yellow, orange peppers and a few pine cones. Birds flocked around her and a few landed on her conical cap. Since birds and trees have a special reciprocal relationship, I have no doubt that my avian friends are welcoming her too. I covered her tender roots with juniper boughs and tomorrow friend Iren will give me some hay to protect her over the winter until I can finally put her in the ground in early spring.

Tonight she was welcomed with a farolito or luminary lit in her honor. Farolitos are used during  Northern New Mexican Feast days and are a tradition. They are sometimes called luminaries. Around the Winter Solstice/Christmas people put them outdoors to welcome the benign spirits/or Mary and Joseph into their homes for repose. When I filled a small paper bag with dirt and placed a candle inside it felt just right. When darkness descended on the river valley last night, a soft glow emanated from beneath the tree. I hope that the Presence of my little pine will bring peace and blessings as well as protection for myself and for others, as so many Indigenous people believe.

Baba’s Tapestry

 

Sara-Tree-of-life.jpg

Above: Huichol String Painting of the Tree of Life – Thanks to Bruce Nelson for the image

This morning the first email I read was written by a male friend of mine who reminded me that today, International Women’s Day, was “my day.” How delightful to be reminded of this moment by a good man I thought to myself.

An article in Return to MAGO about the biological miracle of female mitochondrial DNA captured my attention immediately afterwards. It had been a while since I had thought about the unbroken line of genes passed down from mother to daughter that allowed geneticists to trace woman’s heritage back to the “first mother.” I reflected for a minute on “her- story” that I share with all women including my own mother and grandmother.

In the same piece of writing (excerpts from Blood and Honey by Danica Anderson) references were made to scholar Marija Gimbutas’s research which highlights the importance of spinning and weaving, and how these two creative acts were carried out by women in sacred temples long ago. In ancient times flint blades were used as scissors by the women who cut the threads and cords – umbilical and otherwise. (Neolithic Europe).

These references swamped me with memories driving me to write, today, before I lost the precious threads.

First, I thought of my grandmother who I named “Baba” because she sang a song to me about three lost sheep that cried bah, bah, bah. The word “Baba,” I later learned, was a name used to denote grandmother.

My maternal grandmother took care of me as a child. She let me bake cookies and help her put up food that she had grown in her vegetable garden. She taught me how to grow flowers, and together we watched birds for hours. She cooked special foods for me when I was sick and washed my face with warm water every single night. She awakened me so that we could watch the deer grazing in a circle around the golden apple tree under a blossoming white moon. But what I remember best is sitting with her as she sewed…

My grandmother was a professional seamstress who crafted all my grandfather’s suits, shirts, ties, and silk handkerchiefs from bolts of cloth that she chose with great care. I also have many poignant memories of her sitting at the sewing machine stitching together dresses, shorts, shirts, for her only granddaughter who she loved fiercely. She taught me to sew delicate little stitches, and I have a clear memory of her working on a huge tapestry of the Tree of Life that was filled with colorful birds that I loved. That she never finished this particular piece of embroidery always upset me whenever I thought about it. At the time of her death my grandmother had embroidered so many pillow shams, and wall hangings that were so exquisitely executed that I was left to wonder about the significance behind the fact that she abandoned my favorite tapestry of all. I still have the silver heron scissors that she used to cut the threads while working on that piece of embroidery …

Today of all days seems like an appropriate time to honor my very creative and loving grandmother who nurtured me as a child, adolescent, and young woman. When I lost her not long after my brother’s death I lost the only adult I had ever come near to trusting…

According to Andersom, women’s aprons had pockets that often held precious family heirlooms like rings and necklaces, as well as scissors that were passed down from mother to daughter (or as in my case from grandmother to granddaughter).

(I stopped writing at this point to get a cup of coffee and to water my plants. I was stunned to discover a small pair of (child’s) scissors in the center of one of my passionflower pots that had been hidden there for months. Sometimes synchronistic experiences like this reinforce the powers of interconnection like nothing else can)

My grandmother also wore aprons that always had pockets in them.

My mother was an artist that worked in a number of mediums. At one point she was silk screening pictures that my brother and I had drawn onto linen napkins. My brother drew a bird’s nest with three eggs in it. The picture that my mother selected for me was a self-portrait of a small child who wore an apron with a single pocket in the left hand side. I was also wearing one of my grandfather’s berets. Oddly I had drawn myself with only one arm. As an adult, I wondered about why my mother had chosen this particular picture for her napkins because it seemed to indicate that her daughter saw herself in a distorted way.

The embroidered Tree of Life tapestry that my grandmother never finished and the picture of myself with one arm leads me to believe that something was broken in my grandmother and in me on an archetypal level (tree of life) and the personal (a child with one arm). But I think that the intergenerational woman thread endured and eventually triumphed, because the child had a pocket and inside that pocket was a woman who developed into a creative writer, one who continues today to re-weave the threads of her broken woman line.