Hanging Out with Trees

Summer reminds me of childhood, does it you? There is something about the smell in the air in the morning that reminds me of climbing trees. There was one tree in particular in the backyard of the house I grew up in that was easy to climb–inviting me, it seemed. It had a limb at exactly the right height for pulling myself up, then hanging by my knees, swinging around and dropping down to the ground. How I loved that tree. I can still feel how it felt to hug her cool butternut bark. All these years later it is clear to me that she was communing with me. She didn’t speak in words, of course, but she had a presence.

We don’t  usually think of the body as comprehending deep truths. But the body is wise. In really challenging times, we tend fall back on our earliest way of relating to the world, which is not in words, but through the body. We go off by ourselves and have a good cry. We go for a walk outside.

In a time of overwhelm or uncertainty, in the midst of a crisis, even confirmed atheists may find themselves looking up at the sky and the trees, thinking, “Help me.” The body innately knows to how to seek. We reach in two directions: inward and outward. We seek a connection to a living world, a greater life.

Research that reveals that trees are not isolated beings struggling for survival, as Darwin and others once thought. They live as members of vast interconnected communities, sharing nutrients and information across species in a system that some call the “wood wide web.”  Some beings in this system, especially big old trees fondly called “mother trees,” are benevolent and very generous. A few others, Black Walnuts and orchids among them, steal more than their share of resources or even spread toxins, just as in human communities.

This week, if you wish, go for a walk and look at the trees. Allow yourself to know that they are giving us oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. Know that they are communicating with each other and helping each other in the face of their challenges. Allow yourself to notice that they are also patiently, oh so patiently, offering to communicate with us. What are they expressing?

Notice how it feels to experience yourself as a body that is part of a greater ecosystem, a greater life, opening to receive impressions and wisdom and sustenance from other beings. Just for one wild moment entertain the possibility that you beloved on the earth.

(Photo courtesy Wikimedia )

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