Trees Speak

Big Tree stands at the outside curve of a busy two-lane paved road near our house. The road flows up the hill past the high school and elementary school, branches right toward our favorite park, then ends at a new housing development at the top of the hill. A dirt path winds past the other side of the tree, between it and the steep wooded slope below.

The road’s posted speed limit is a figment of imagination as drivers careen through its inviting curves. More than one driver has missed a curve and hit the electrical power or telephone poles. Yet Big Tree still stands.

For years I have stopped to visit when I walk the trail. A knobby protrusion where a branch once grew fits into my hand. A smooth depression in the crusty bark welcomes my forehead. Big Tree envelops me in warm recognition. Sometimes there is just connection; sometimes I hear a low voice that flows like sap.

My connection to Big Tree travels with me. Half a dozen years ago, in Louisiana, I walked to the end of the small country town. The graveyard, with its above-ground tombs, sits next to an historic church. Old trees line the property’s edge. One in particular claimed my attention – it was wonderfully old, draped in long strands of Spanish moss. I placed my hand on its nubbed bark and greeted it. “Hello. I am from California, home of oaks and redwood trees. Would you like to send greetings to Big Tree, a coast live oak?”

I saw the two of them merge together and heard a soft Southern-accented voice say, “We are one.”

My walk continued back toward town, where I saw another tree wedged between blocks of sidewalk concrete. I sent it greetings and thanks for its work in bringing healing and softness to its place. I felt its appreciation and heard again the softly accented, “We are one.”

Back home that year, summer grasses and thistles had not yet grown too tall for me to explore the slope below our house. A huge old oak clung to the hillside. Some of its branches curved down to the ground, inviting me to climb them. This felt like a secret hidden place. I felt that Big Tree would like to be in a place like this. I asked the tree, “Are you in communication with Big Tree?”

The tree said, “The one you call Big Tree is part of my family. Its job is to be there, to be an ambassador by the path to represent trees. It makes contact with people who go by, those who choose to be aware.” I received a feeling of acknowledgment from Big Tree and saw myself standing between them, with the palms of my hands on their trunks. I thanked the tree, and climbed back up the slope to the house.

Recently, Big Tree said, “We are here. We are all connected. Holding hands under the ground through our roots. Some, like the Aspens, are literally connected. Others of us are connected by energy as it moves through the earth. Within each species we are more closely connected, as in your human families. But all are connected as part of the greater family. That is why, when you talked to the oak on the slope below, it knew you. And when you talked to the tree in Louisiana, it knew me. You were the connector. You carry my energy with you.”

I asked, “What is it like to be a tree standing in this place, at the curve of a road, where people pass and cars race by?”

“I am an ambassador. Those who pause to acknowledge me receive the gift of my Beingness. I bring the message of the trees to the people, and I relay that of humanity to other trees.

“We are patient. We stand, we grow. Humans move about too much. You don’t root in a place and become one with it. I stand, the environment changes around me, and I am one with it. Seasons pass. One day to the next, one minute to the next are part of the flow of a much greater cycle, almost too great to be aware of. Yet I honor each moment. Humans race from one thing to another, never really landing in each moment as it passes.

“Be where you are,” Big Tree advised. “I am here. I see the changing angles of the sun on my leaves, feel the evaporation of moisture from them, feel the fluids rise from the earth through my roots to replenish it. I drink deeply of the earth. I feel the ants on my bark as they go about their business. I feel the squirrels race among my branches. Sometimes they tickle and I like that, too. I grow acorns that fall, and the squirrels eat them. Some roll down the hillside to take root, my children. I am not as old as some, but this is my chosen place to be. I was here before this road and this path. I am still here. I will be here until my time comes to fall.”

I wondered, “What is your greatest pleasure?”

“Being part of the cycle of life: acorns; birds and their nests and eggs; squirrels and their young; people who notice and stop to listen; sharing my knowledge. Sometimes I can share words, as I do now with you. Sometimes it is an energetic exchange.”

I asked, “Do you have a message for the people?”

“We trees work steadily to cleanse the air and bring balance. We need the humans to help, too. There is much to be done, and we are slowly losing ground. Tell the people to honor our mother earth and all who dwell on her. Use no more resources than you need, and give thanks for those you do use. Balance must be restored and maintained. That is all. Thank you for asking.”

“Thank you, Big Tree.” I have much to ponder about how I live my own life and move through the world and its resources.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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