Learn the Language of Trees

The secret life of trees. They talk to each other, says forester Peter Wohlleben. They have families. 

The Golden Seed Grove was established back in 2002 to celebrate the world of trees. It is one of my favourite collections and a place I love to visit, along with the Murmuring Woods. Soul Food patrons planted in this grove by writing about much loved trees.

“Trees in literature have been variously imagined as providores of fateful apples ingested by everyone from Adam to Snow White, to avenging agents such as the Brothers Grimm’s juniper tree. They are settings for and enablers of creepy forest happenings involving wolves, witches, woodcutters and (less alliteratively) abandoned children. From Shel Silverstein’s overly generous giving tree to Enid Blyton’s faraway trees, and from flesh-eating trees and whomping willows in Harry Potter to the knothole in the oak tree in To Kill a Mockingbird that acts as mediator and repository of tokens of friendship, trees have long been fictionalised as having volition, malice and generosity”. (Read more)

When I moved to my home in Castlemaine, Victoria, an extension to my home resulted in the back yard being left barren. My deck looked over the deck of a neighbour, who was building behind me at the same time. I smiled and said that much as I enjoyed being able to see them fire up the bar-b-que, the clear view would soon be obscured by a woodland! Those who were skeptical need only visit now. Seven years later there is a fairy woodland, inhabited by companion trees and soothing woodland spirits. Wander along the winding pathways and you will agree that it has the most beautiful energy now!

Dame Judi Dench is every bit as passionate about trees and tells us that trees really do talk. She has a wonderful practice of planting saplings in remembrance of relatives, friends and fellow thespians who have died. Now she has a secret forest of trees that honor her dead friends.

Matt Toussaint describes a ritual he undertook in the Amazon. He “set out to participate in a traditional healing practice known as a dieta. Local jungle cultures have been practicing this form of healing, learning, and connecting with the forest for at least several hundred years, and likely longer. The experience is tree-centered and primarily conducted in solitude while following specific dietary and behavioral restrictions. The specific restrictions can vary by tradition but typically include a dauntingly bland food fare that is free of salt, sugar, oils, and spices; sexual abstinence; no human touch or contact; no strenuous physical activity; refraining from drugs or alcohol; and no use of hygiene products. Once a day for three or four days the dieter consumes a mild tea made from the raw bark of medicinal trees. The length of the diet and the restrictions are followed for an agreed upon period of time, lasting anywhere from 5 to 30 days, and sometimes longer”. (read more). In a society bereft of ritual and ceremony this sounds very appealing.

Peter Wohlleben is a forester who believes trees are more like people than we think. He believes trees have memories, they have friends, they have enemies, and they talk to each other over what he calls, the ‘Wood Wide Web.’

You do not have to go on a major retreat or be a shamanic explorer to connect with trees. In my writing courses I have participants conduct a tree centred activity in silence. They spend quality time making contact with the spirit of the tree, listening to it, interviewing it; learning about its secrets and hidden life.

Try mapping a root system, illustrating some of the webs of connection between trees who live together in a grove.

Seek out trees, take photos and create a gallery of trees with secret messages encoded behind the images.

The purpose of the whole affair is to make contact with the spirit of the tree so that it will teach you its wisdom and healing properties. The limitations on behavior and consumption help you enter a state of receptivity that is conducive to spirit communication. Entire shamanic traditions and mythologies are built on this single principle: plants can teach and talk to us. The traditional lore maintains that once a plant has been dieted, its spirit remains within the body and is always available to offer its assistance and guidance. We bond with them and they become an inseparable part of us.

“We can learn much from the beauty of trees, their infinite variety, their inspiration, their emotional significance, their spiritual heritage and symbolism, the psychology they engender and their sheer independence. There are many ways in which trees contribute much more to our well being and sense of rootedness in nature.” read more

Take the time to check out the Tree of Contemplative Practices for inspiration.