Saturday, November 19, 2016

LIFE AND LIMB – A Tree Hugger Turns the Tables

In our neighborhood there’s a stately old cottonwood tree. At first glance, you wouldn’t say there’s anything exceptional about it. But I noticed one day that, as cottonwoods often do, this tree actually has more than one trunk. In fact, there are five distinct trunks, each about the same size—probably ten or twelve feet in circumference—evenly spaced in a circle.

The massive columns, just a few inches apart at the ground, lean slightly outward, leaving just enough room for me to step into their midst. I like to stand in that living enclosure and touch the coarse bark. Then I lean back against one of the trunks and focus my awareness on just that place, that moment. When I do that, I feel something extraordinary.

      I imagine its five trunks as fingers, gently 
      holding me in their knowing grasp.

Maybe it’s just a sense of peace, of being in the moment, but I believe there’s something more. I think what I feel is the spirit of that tree, its acknowledgment, its welcome. It’s as if, through my touch, by my deep awareness of its venerable “being,” it too can sense my presence, my spirit. I imagine its five trunks as gnarly, wrinkled fingers, gently holding me in their knowing grasp.

Does the idea of communicating by touch with an inanimate object seem illogical? I certainly can’t prove that my overtures to that cottonwood were reciprocated. But don’t let that stop you from trying. The trick is, first of all, to be open to the dialog. You have to believe that a tree just might have something to say to you.

Second—and this is even harder for most people—you have to believe it is saying something to you. Now let’s be reasonable; a tree can’t talk. But it does have life and thus, my pantheist persuasion tells me, a spirit. And spirits have no trouble at all communicating. I know this.


jean said...

I totally am with you on this, Jeff! I always talk to trees on my walks and thank them for being here and tell them how beautiful they are. I think they both ground and lift me up at the same time. I lost the old sycomore tree that I grew up with and even colored the places I could reach where the bark had fallen off. When I realized the tree, which was huge, was not doing well, we spent lots of money to feed and treat it, but finally, a wind storm got it. I grieved as if I had lost a family member. It has been the subject of several poems and what I finally realized was that the strong energy and life force of that wonderful tree is still there! I have a new maple tree near where the old sycomore stood, and I am always careful to love and praise that tree, knowing that it is being looked after by the spirit of my old friend.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks Jean. What a sweet remembrance of that old sycamore! We did the same -- and ultimately lost -- a lovely American elm on the boulevard in front of our home. It had created such a sense of space that our whole end of the block was affected when it fell.
BTW, is there a place on line where one could read some of your poetry?

jean said...

Thank you, Jeff, yes, my wedsite has a few poems and more will be put on in the coming months
I am so sorry about that elm and I know exactly what you mean about how it affected the entire end of your block.

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