“When a person becomes interested in trees, the forest bursts forth with new life as if all the trees have suddenly come alive.” Twylah Hurd Nitsch
This month has been extra busy because we moved into our new house. Between boxing, renovating, and finally moving into our home we’ve been learning the value of surrendering and deboning. We don’t need to carry around so many things just because they hold memories. It’s amazing how we stay attached to things because of how they fit into a particular personal story at a precise moment in time. I’ve been repeating all month long “if it’s not practical and hasn’t been used in the last 12 months – let it go!” Yet, it isn’t so easy to detach from mementos especially if we’ve given them the burden to carry the weight of our childhood, adolescence, or a passionate love story…
Along with moving boxes this month, I’ve also been transplanting trees, bushes and plants. 25 years ago I moved out of my parent’s home into an apartment with my boyfriend, ET (who later became my husband). Around the building where we lived was this row of beautiful, mature Lilac trees. The sixplex building where we stayed had once been a farm and the trees basically separated the house from the fields. For some reason, I felt the history of the land through these trees and it inspired me with purity, peace and unity. During the time we stayed in this flat I felt at home because of these trees. When came time for ET and I to move, it seemed more important to bring some sprouts of the Lilac tree with us then our own furniture. We moved 13 times during the earlier years of our relationship (ET and I) and each time, I brought saplings of this original Lilac tree.
From year to year it flourished and so I couldn’t actually bring the whole tree along with me every year. Wherever we lived I had to leave behind some of the “mother stems” (the original trunk). Today, whenever I drive in front of these buildings I always marvel at how big “my” Lilac trees have become. I wonder if the people who live in these places have the same “homey” impression I’ve always had from these trees?
When we moved to the country in 2004, again I brought over some of the Lilac tree and planted it in three different areas of the front and back yard of our new home. I knew I was bringing “them” back home, on farming land. They grew and flourished impressively even more so than anywhere else where I planted them. It allowed me to understand the value of origins (a mystery on the Medicine Wheel) and how our roots do recognize the land of our ancestors.
In 2006, I noticed all three trees around the house were showing sign of difficulty.
At the time I was reading a book on the “psychic properties” of trees. It was an old publication (1970’s); which was recommended to me by a student. I can’t say the book was wonderfully instructive, but it did provide one or two statements; which were incredibly synchronic. The author of the book researched plants and their intrinsic connection. He discovered that if you injured the “mother plant” all of the children related to this original plant would also show distress. This fact lead me to drive all over town to see if any of the Lilacs I had left behind were struggling as well. Amazingly I discovered the original 25 year old Lilac tree had been cut and removed from around the apartment building by the new owner.
I was sadden by the news and astonished with the apparent fact that my trees, the babies were feeling this pain too. I came back home and approached the issue by giving my trees a little extra care. I made a Medicine Wheel around them and ritualistically acknowledged the death of “their mother;” but also tried to send the message that “they should carry on the legacy of their parent tree.” It took a month and they perked up. Eventually, they grew bigger and stronger than their relations. I came to understand that not only did the trees communicate to each other; but they also responded to me. They heard me as well…
It was an elder Passamaquoddy friend who said to me: “If the tees can hear you; now all you need to do is let go of some of your arrogance and hear them too.”
EC often told me that she didn’t believe in the “energy or spirit talk” professed by practitioners of the New Age movement. She saw many of those kinds of healers come to the reserves and offer “recovery” to individuals with addictions.
“If it doesn’t move through the body (our natural reality) or doesn’t anchor as the Wheel teaches us,” she would say with assurance, “it’s missing something.”
EC talked about trees as if she one of them. I remember my grand-father speaking in the exact same manner. I would imagine many of the elders who lived from the land shared the same knowledge and hence, shared similar stories. I learnt as a child that you could read the life of a tree just by looking at the rings of its bark. You could tell whether it was touched by fire, drought or had lots of water. Basically, just like on the Medicine Wheel, the rings speak of the cycle of change and how “we” (humans and trees) are touched by the energy of the Universe.
Twylah Nitsch who was a Seneca Medicine Wheel teacher often talked about trees and how they were great guides toward personal growth. My grand-father once said to me that trees were silent listeners to centuries of children, teenagers, adults and elders. I know I often sang to trees as a child. During adolescence I often cried, raged and whispered my pain to a few selected trees in my neighbourhood. I definitely hand picked them as if I knew which ones would be most helpful. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been sensitive to trees; perceiving their unique personalities; and feeling very specific impressions with each one.
My children were born during the technology era and even though they were attracted by computer games, I made sure to teach them to be sensitive to the World around them especially trees. CT, my son connected to a few trees in our neighbourhood. One of them he considered as “magical.” It stood alone in the middle of a field and seemed to be the guardian of the corn. CT came up with all kinds of stories related to this tree and believed wholeheartedly that this tree was some kind of old, wise, friendly Spirit. If Corey would have lived 500 years ago amongst the Iroquois he probably would have carved a face on the bark of the tree acknowledging the Spirit and Medicine of the tree.
There’s no doubt the Iroquois people in particular believed trees were just like humans. For starters, they respond to loving care; and they react to song, appreciation, and emotion. Our Iroquois ancestors no doubt would not have been too happy with our mass destruction of forests. Trees were used to guide and inspire our Iroquois ancestors. They would often hold Counsel meetings beneath certain trees because it allowed them to be inspired with wisdom and guided towards righteous decisions for the good of their people. The Ravens also follow this same tradition. Almost 15 years ago, our neighbours had this big Oak tree in their back yard. A whole family of squirrels made nests in this tree until the Ravens decided the tree would make for a great meeting place. The Raven clan literally killed all of the squirrels and moved in. We called the tree from that point on: “The Tree of Murders.” Amazingly, the Ravens used the tree regularly for Counsel meetings and it was just incredibly educating just to watch.
Many traditional teachers still believe today that some trees are meant to help us center ourselves. Usually those trees are chosen by attraction. If you have a favourite tree you always go to – it’s most likely your “centering tree.” By connecting to this tree, elders say: “You’ll come to acknowledge your own truth and find strength in your personal walk.” Twylah helped her students to connect to trees by positioning certain trees on their personal Wheels. Some trees were said to be noble, others respectful, loving, beautiful, or in service. Every tree “you” would connect to would somehow help you learn or heal something about yourself.
At our last home, I planted 15 trees. I connected to each of them and they grew to be quite impressive. I wished I could have brought them with me; but they had already created the kind of roots that would bring them to speak of the land for centuries. I don’t have as much land to work with at our new home; but I’ve committed to plant at least two trees there too. I’m still debating on which ones. In certain towns, certain trees can not be planted because they cause havoc on the foundations. Willows for example can’t be planted unless you own more than one acre of land. More and more we see trees that aren’t indigenous to our land and I often wonder how these trees will come to affect the energy of the “tree kingdom.” Only time will tell….
I’d like to say thank you to TONY for asking for this blog entry on Trees. I haven’t written much this month and his e-mail came to me at just the right time. His topic suggestion definitely inspired me….