…and never does this seem truer than right now, when the almond trees are in exuberant bloom, and the sunbeams spotlight the delicate blossoms that festoon their dark, twisted branches.
Maybe it’s the way they bridge the earth and the heavens that prompts us to we seek them out when we need solace, and walk in woods when we need healing? Not because our intellect suggests it, nor necessarily because we love their beauty, but rather because we know, intuitively, that trees can help us tap into bigger, more universal energies in a way that we cannot rationalise. Maybe, because every time we rest our back against a tree’s trunk or look up with wonder into its high branches we are in some way reaching to the listening heaven while tapping into the earth’s solidity through the conduit of the tree.
When we open ourselves to it, a tree can give us experiences that let us glimpse dimly understood truths, that show us how much more important they are to us than the obvious, physical benefits - food, shelter, wood, fuel, gas exchange etc.
But what exactly is it, this intangible thing that trees have that can hold us in their thrall? It is a truth that is difficult, if not impossible to articulate, because it springs from a deep, inner place that doesn’t use words. Small wonder, then that people resort to creative ways such as poetry and music and art and dance and film and myth to express the effect that trees have on them.
As some of you know, I am collecting tree stories. The project is an extension of my artwork inspired by a tree, and I am hoping that I will eventually have enough material to turn into a hand-written book that can later be reproduced. So far I have been sent some wonderful material - fictional tales and poems, and songs, and art. But not everyone has the confidence to transform their feelings into an artistic expression and yet their actions speak every bit as eloquently. Every one of the tree stories that people have sent me has touched my heart in some way. Each tells of pain and comfort, of connection and healing, and of wonder and appreciation. They all seem to tell of direct, if unarticulated, understanding that matter and spirit are intimately and intricately connected. And almost all have been the tale of a particular, especially significant tree that has helped them to touch heaven when they have most needed it.
And how deep the feelings are that trees can evoke…
…She lived in Germany. She’d experienced the hardships of war and married a war-wounded man, but was never able to cast off the shadow of her blighted past to find peace and happiness; except when she rested her world-weary back against the rough bark of the massive willow tree that grew just outside her kitchen. Then, it seems, her spirit would soak up some solace from its mighty trunk and help her to find the courage to carry on.
Until, that is, the morning that she opened the door to find her tree had been split in two by the storm in the night. It was as though, when the devastation ripped her tree apart, it also ripped the heart out of her - and then, like a desperate mother hell-bent on saving her child, she burst into action. First the carpenter was called in to build a scaffolding around the tree; then the blacksmith summoned to create a brace to hold the split halves together; and finally a local farmer commissioned to bring in cartloads of manure to feed the ailing tree.
Every day she would go out and talk to the tree, whispering sweet words of encouragement, and begging it to stay alive. She waited and watched, and watched and waited. Spring arrived, and still there was no sign of new growth. The weeks rolled on, and all around trees and plants were bursting with new life, but the old willow seemed stubbornly reluctant to show any signs of recovery; and still the woman would feed the tree and talk to it to coax it back to life.
Now spring was threatening to turn into summer; all seemed quite hopeless, and all around her people were telling her that she was crazy to think that the tree would ever grow again, until the day the first new succulent buds appeared on the branches.
That was the only day that her son - who gave me this story - every remembers seeing his mother cry. They were tears of joy to see her soul’s only truly trusted companion and help-mate raised from the dead…
This mysterious relationship that we have with trees must surely be the reason that they have held such fascination for us since time immemorial; why, down the ages people from every culture and every corner of the world have endowed them with magical powers, given them names, invested them with spirits, draped their branches with votive offerings, and seen them as symbols - of knowledge, of fertility and rebirth; of life itself. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trees_in_mythology)
It can only be the reason that my old olive tree mesmerises me anew every time I visit her, just as she did the first time I met her. I don’t understand why this particular tree has this hold over me. After all, the island is well populated with dozens of ancient olive trees; each and every one of them an intriguing testament to its own convoluted history. And yet none of them fascinates me as much as this one. I can only think that the same mysterious energy exchange is going on between me and her as does between people. Who can explain why it is that we find ourselves more attracted to some people than to others; that we have an easier relationship with this person than with that; why some people bring out the best in us, and others the worst?
We talk a lot, these days, about the need to save trees; to stop the deforestation and to plant new trees - and always what is uppermost in our minds is our own physical survival, but there really is more to it than that. This is the conundrum that occupies my mind because I believe that, if only more people could understand how our material world is inextricably bound to our mystical world, we would find a way of turning things around with less pain.
If this sounds all very vague and new age, please just check out the science. This article, https://www.thoughtco.com/quantum-physics-overview-2699370, offers a brief introduction, and links to more in depth writings.
If you have a tree story that you would like to add to my collection, please email it it me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The quote in the title is from Rabindranath Tagore