I’ve been walking the back pasture with greater frequency. It’s because of school which is chaining my body to a desk and my mind to a particular way of thinking. You see, the research part of school commands speaking in references; if you say it, you cite it. It sends you constantly scurrying for peer-reviewed research documenting someone else’s wisdom and then you regurgitate it — not to show your own wisdom, but your knowledge of theirs. Big. Sigh.
I suppose this is learning, at least one kind of learning, but it strains my soul. In the field of psychology, all the main theories are from “the big boys” — Freud, Erickson, Adler, Piaget, Ellis — oh my, the list goes on. I cling to the existence of Virginia Satir, the one female voice in this sea of patriarchy; a gentle voice of great understanding about family systems and the profound effect it has on us as individuals. So, to take a break from this indoctrination, I walk the pasture and sit so the donkeys will hug around me. I rub faces and exchange air with the horses and scuff up one buoyant dog after another who cannot contain their bliss at being both outside and with their mama. And I talk to the trees; mostly I try to listen.
We had a strong wind this weekend and it took one of my friends, an elderly tree of scrubby size, rooted just on the other side of the back fence.
She came down from a mortal wound sheering her trunk just above the fence line.
She come down to be with me, the whole length of her resting peacefully on her boughs inside the pasture. The dogs found her first. The horses ambled along after me and we all came to stand around her, gently touching her limbs and letting this new reality sink in. She is gone.
Or, so it seemed.
I have been slowly working my way through a book, “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World”, by Peter Wohlleben (I am actively resisting the compulsion to give this in proper citation form). You might think this is a “woo-woo” book, but it is decidedly not. Peter Wohlleben is a forester, a learned scientist who manages the largest old-growth forest in Europe. He has opened my eyes to the profound life cycle wisdom of trees. When I came to my fallen tree, I was particularly sad because she was in mid-bloom. She was of a kind that forces her buds first, later the leaves. Trees that do this have a deep urge to propagate, to feed the cycle of life. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to force buds. The tree has slumbered on diminished resources through its winter and has not yet replenished itself by growing its new nourishment system – its leaves. She was at her weakest, her most vulnerable time and the winds of force took her.
That was five days ago and today, I walked the pasture to visit her. I expected to see her limp boughs and dried buds, but here is what greeted me:
She is alive. She is using the tiny sliver of life force that can still make it up her sheered trunk to feed her buds, to feed the promise of what comes.
The bees are frantically communing with her, gobbling up her nectar and spreading her pollen with their poly bodies. Life goes on; her life goes on.
I think I may have learned more today from her than the last three weeks of book work, combined. I fear I am not doing her story justice, but I hope you can feel your way to it. There is great, great wisdom in trees because there is great wisdom in nature which means there is great wisdom in each of us. We are nature, too. I am not disillusioned about school; I knew “book smart” was part of the deal and I can be book smart. But, I also want to be wise and to practice, first and foremost, from my wisdom. That is a part of the learning process built into school as well and some day I will talk about that. But, today, it is a tree, the sweet, kind soul of a tree, that I thank and call teacher.