Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them,
whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth – Herman Hesse
I’m not sure when my fascination with trees started, but I remember when I had my first connection to a particular tree. It was shortly after I got married. I was adjusting to married life after being single for 35 years.
As a new couple, establishing roots and finding a home was one of our first priorities. After a long search, my hubby and I finally found a comfy ranch house on Quaint Road. The name of the road dotted with different types of older houses drew me to the established suburban Philadelphia neighborhood . The home had been updated by another younger couple. It was located midway between both of our jobs and was a perfect size for two people and occasional house guests. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a transition house as we found our way together. As a new couple, we were adjusting to a new home, and in my husband’s case a new job in a new location. We had many transitions during the short time we were in that home. Some of these changes were very stressful. Overtime, I found myself finding a deep sense of calm as I gazed out of our large living room picture window that was almost eye level with the lowest branches of a strong, gentle beech tree. On weekends when I stressed about the past week or the week to come, the beech beckoned to me through our picture window. Her grey brown bark etched with various bumps and hollows had her own spirit but attracted others.
To distract me from a very masculine culture in a high stress job, and with encouragement from my husband, I enrolled in a course to study Goddess, earth based cultures and Shamanism. So, perhaps, it was my reading and highly active imagination that caused me to connect with this stately beech. During daylight hours, I would find myself just gazing out at a distinctive rust brown hollow in the middle of her trunk. “What is living in that hollow?” I wondered. My imagination further questioned – “Is it of this world or another? Is this just a hollow or a passage way to somewhere else?” My eyes would then wander up to her outstretched branches spanning 30 feet or more and watch as the breeze played with the leafy dressing that changed colors over the seasons. Whatever worry I was dwelling on seemed to ease after this gentle communion with my new found friend. On one fanciful day, in the midst of household chores, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large bird birched on the branch that was closest to our picture window. That day, I had my first close encounter with a majestic, dark eyed, peering, curious hawk. The broad chested bird with brown, grey and white feathers perched on the lowest branch twisted her head and eyed me as if to ask, “What is it you really want?” As our eyes met, I felt as though magic had been exchanged. When it came time to move from our home, it was not neighbors I missed but the forever friend whose celery green leaves waved gaily in spring and summer breezes.
From Philadelphia suburbia, our move to Endwell, NY (again I was drawn to the name) introduced me to a colder and wilder nature with only two neighboring houses in sight. Our acre patch of land was full of meadow grass, brambles and bushes. The older, larger trees had been felled long ago. Another picture window over looked a forest border of crab apple trees that shielded us from the view of a golf course below. While I never connected to this spindly cluster of branches, like I did with my beech friend, I loved the gifts of their seasonal transformation. In spring, the budding white, sweet scented flowers reminded me that the long winter was surely done as the local doe left the safety of the small forest and introduced her faun to us at dawn and dusk. Autumn brought bushels of sour fruit, which I loved to transform into a yummy applesauce. This friendly hedge created a peaceful sanctuary from a noisy world on the other side.
Now in Virginia, it’s the deeply grooved dark grey bark of a Black Walnut that grounds me. She hasn’t quite connected to me like my beech friend. The wise old tree once stood with others, but home development took her siblings away. She remains a sanctuary to some cooing doves, a red headed woodpecker, cardinals, blue jays and an occasional grey squirrel. These friends amuse me and give me the space to be. In late Fall she drops her fruit loudly on my deck demanding attention least I forget she is there. Perhaps because I don’t have the connection with the Black Walnut that I shared with the Beech, shortly after moving to Virginia, I returned to Yoga to ground me. Is it any wonder, that I chose tree pose as one of my favorite poses when I need balance?
I close my eyes and bring my prayer hands to my chest, as I ground my feet into the floor, I feel the soil beneath the roots of my friendly beech in PA. As I find stability and connection, I raise one leg and place that foot on the inside of the other leg. I imagine my core connecting to that deep rust brown hollow in her trunk as my arms lift to mimic her branches. All seems calm once more!