Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ash, Oak and Hawthorn.

“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 

Idea One:
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.
Equipment: Stethoscope

Instructions:  If you listen carefully with a stethoscope, you can hear the “heartbeat” of a tree. Find a thin-barked tree more than 6 inches in diameter and place your stethoscope against its trunk. Be very quiet. Move the stethoscope around until you can hear the crackling, gurgling sound of sap flowing up to the branches.

Idea Three:
Go to your local library and take out a field guide.  Learn the names of at least three trees who share your neighborhood.


  1. I too live in Central Ohio, and the majestic Ash behind my town home has become a victim of the emerald ash borer. She hasn't been cut down yet (our landlord won't spend the money, even though one of her branches has already totaled a car), but someone has stripped some of her bark away and you can see the swirly trenches the insects have left within. It would almost be pretty if her branches weren't splitting off and void of leaves. It makes me so sad to see so many of these beautiful trees falling to this tiny intruder.

  2. Lovely post, I do like the way you write, like telling a story. It's a shame that such a beautiful beetle does so much damage but humans do far more. Your post reminded me of the monocultures here in Britain. Our great forests were (and in some places still are) a beautiful balance of many different kinds of trees. There is a brand of toilet paper which promises to plant three new trees for every one they cut down in order to make their paper. Trouble is they only plant one type of tree - evergreen! Love the activities too, especially the stethoscope one. Great post

  3. I enjoyed your post. I also love trees and nature. Love your activities ...

  4. I love you post - how sad that once again the balance of nature has been altered by human interference (I'm assuming the beetle made its way here by that method). I wish we incorporated more trees into our building programs, they are so much fun to play in and just hang out with...I look around me here and I can't find a single tree in the complex I live in that a child could climb.

    I love the activities. When I was living in NZ every time I came across a Kauri tree I had to embrace it, they have the most amazing deep resonating thrum, it gave me great peace.

  5. I always feel silly talking to a tree. But I've often just sat down and meditated under one and feel her heartbeat. I'm also in Ohio (Though south eastern) Maybe the beetle hasn't been this far south? Can't say I'd recognize its damage anyway.

  6. I love the activities you added at the end! We are losing our ash trees upstate NY too :(
    Thank you for your wonderful post!

  7. Fantastic, nicely done!
    Loved the activities at the end... definitely going to try a couple once spring arrives.

  8. Fantastic blog thank you! I especially love your activity suggestions especially the stethoscope will have to try that one x

  9. Beautiful post; I love to "talk" to Trees--they have so much wisdom to teach if one would just turn off the cell phone and listen. I've felt the heartbeat of a tree--in Darby Creek Metro Park (Galloway, Ohio), I've found a spot by the river of immense power, located between three trees (off trail). My first visit, the spot drained all energy from our phones and cameras. The second time, someone had left an offering on a log between them. And the third time, I stopped, as the others went on, and communicated. With my hand, I felt a soft pulse...the heart of the tree. I was very thankful for the experience! Blessings. ~)O(~

  10. Beautiful post! They're tearing up a forest near my house for a development and I feel the pain every time I drive through the feels completely unstabalized now. :(

  11. Lovely post! Gotta love trees!! I don't have a stethoscope, but have tried your other two suggested activities and do so on a regular basis. Gotta love trees! :)


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