“I was a listener in the woods.” Corma MacCuileannain (836-908 CE)
“Nature is the greatest teacher, the best mortal instructors but inept guides by comparison.” The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg
“Oak, Ash and Hawthorn are the faery triad of trees – it is said where they grow faeries live.” Celtic Saying
I live within a faery triangle: Oak, Ash and Hawthorn. In my front yard grows the ash, her picture is above. Her leaves shade my house in the summer and her arms welcoming song birds and acrobatic squirrels that I watch out my front window. Many don’t realize that she’s the offspring of the Norse holy tree Yggdrasil, the tree of life. My youthful tree is a guardian of old memories. If you listen, she’ll describe how her mother’ branches extend up to the heavens - bending into comfortable chairs for the Gods and Goddesses to hold court. And, she’ll tell you about of dragons and heroes quests her mother supported.
I know it is only a brief time she shares with me.
In Central Ohio, we’ve been hard hit with the Emerald Ash Bore. This beautiful green insect from China has been killing our ash trees in the Great Lake Region. The destruction is being compared to the American chestnut blight and the Dutch elm disease. Once infected these holy giants have to be cut down. Streets that were lined with shady ashes now are nude looking like new housing developments.
I shake my head, we have not learned from our past mistakes. I’ve watched the city plant the same tree down a barren street. Again, probably for the same reasons the ashes were planted to replace the elms: easy to take care of one type of tree and the bottom line revolves around money.
But, my neighborhood before humans was an eastern deciduous hardwood forest. Everyone knows a forest doesn’t have just one tree growing in a picturesque lane format. There were many different trees and shrubs - walnuts, oaks, hickories, ash, maples..... Each sharing and taking what they need from the environment. And, in turn the animals and insects too gave and took from this environment. There was a balance.
Somehow during our intellectual and technological evolution, we’ve (humans) became disconnected with the earth and how we fit in. We have forgotten how to appreciate every tree and living organism within the forest – choosing to like a select few – rather the diversity. We watch nature on a big screen rather than actually spending time outside; believe apples come from the supermarket rather than eating one off a tree. It is uncanny, that our relationship with the forest mirrors the relationship we have with each other. We live out of balance.
“The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;”
C.S. Lewis from his poem On Being Human. May 8, 1948.
Meeting Trees Activity
Purpose: Hanging out with a tree for 30 minutes.
Equipment: Wear old jeans if you’re worried about getting dirty. If there isn’t a tree in your apartment complex – look for a local park.
Instructions: Which tree to pick? Think of it like going to a party – who would you like to talk to? Go up and introduce yourself – Hey I’m (fill in the blank) can I sit down here. Be open – intuition will tell you yes or no. If you get a no – go introduce yourself to another tree. When you get a yes - sit down with your back against the tree and listen. When you get home, take time to jot down in your journal your thoughts.
Idea Two from Joseph Cornell, Sharing Nature With Children
Purpose: Hear a tree’s heartbeat.
Go to your local library and take out a field guide. Learn the names of at least three trees who share your neighborhood.