The Language of Trees

Photo Credit: Daniel O'Connor

   And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

William Shakespeare

  Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

Hermann Hesse

Ever since I was a child, I have had this curious habit of talking to trees.  I find myself touching their trunks in passing, sitting at their roots to rest, and saying silent hellos...exchanging elements of air well-grounded in earth.  I have always loved their company.

I don't know when they started talking back. Perhaps they were always talking, and I simply didn't hear or perhaps it took a while for me to extend the bounds of culturally-sanctioned sanity. I don't know, but somehow it happened, and now, from time to time, I find myself deep in conversation with trees.

The first time that I had an inkling that trees could talk I was walking in the woods on a familiar path greeting various trees in passing when suddenly, for reasons unknown, I found myself compelled to stop and reach into the heart of a large fir. It had a melon-sized hole in its trunk, and as I reached inside quite despite myself, I was a bit worried that my fingers would meet the teeth of some furry little creature. 

The tree swallowed my arm whole and when my fingers reached its solid, cool center, I groped around feeling somewhat silly until I felt something cold and smooth, and I knew that I had found what I was blindly seeking.  As I pulled it out, I heard it.  I couldn't quite believe it, but I heard it.  The fir heaved a big sigh of relief to finally have that old CocaCola can removed.  That was the first time.

  I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  

Henry David Thoreau

More recently, I had the pleasure of meeting some trees on an island in British Columbia.  I asked them about presence, and this is what they had to say:

For years we have stood on hallowed ground and witnessed sky and sea, wolves and eagles and bear, our roots plunging into sacred earth, limbs dancing in sacred sky, mingling with sun and stars and moon.  Then, the great two-limbed plague came and destroyed our ancestors to build meaningless things and clothe themselves in apparent abundance.  They didn't know their place on earth; their gods forgot their nature. 

They who created fire plunged the world into darkness.  Yet, we stand tall in the face of our destruction.  We whisper to the wind and hope our voices carry deep into the hearts of humanity that we may continue to shelter the earth and seed the soil...that we may continue to breathe together as One.

Ahhhhhh, the language of trees...of course, a lot gets lost in the translation, so next time you're in the presence of trees, see for yourself. If you're not already in the habit, do stop and say hello.  You can call me crazy, but if you listen with an open heart and an open mind, they will speak to you. 

And if you're willing to share, I'd love to learn what they had to say...