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Listening to Trees

"Light and Trees" - Photo by Marg Herder

“There’s no spirit and there’s no glory in the things money can buy. Did you see the eagle flying, did you hear the wolf calling, did you see the sun shining today ….”
—Mishi Donovan (Chippewa, Cree) Forgotten Yesterday song lyric

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
—Chris Maser, author, Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest

Sitting under the giant oak trees in my yard, I watch as their leaves gently wave hello in the wind. I hear distant cicadas buzzing, a soft breeze rustling through the branches, and birds chirping as they fly from branch to sky. Squirrels scurry along, leaping across the limbs like acrobats, while a world of tiny insects travel numerous unseen roads. Sometimes, high overhead, a hawk makes its presence known.

What can I write that will help us remember that these magnificent ancient trees—which give so much to humans, insects, wildlife creatures, and birds—are living organisms? What would our Ancestors want us to learn from trees?

I take a slow, deep breath. I ask the Trees: What do they want us to know?

When we sit for an hour beneath a tree, I believe we can go deeper in our lives. We can ask questions that matter. We can hear the answers we need.

What the Trees tell me today:

All branches of the Sacred Tree are important and necessary. The branch you occupy, because of your unique life experiences, is significant.

Your branch needs to be strong. Don’t cut yourself off. Gain strength from a network of healthy connections. These help you stay grounded and sturdy.

Recognize that other branches are part of the Sacred Tree of Life. While distant branches may not be in your immediate awareness, they are there, reaching out, and are essential for the Tree’s overall health. These branches, too, must be strong.

Don’t forget that your roots go deep. Deep roots are the Source where all living things connect. When we sit at the base of the tree, we see the causes of our shared conditions, and we see the solutions for our collective health, happiness, and wellbeing.

Keep reaching for the sun and sky. Soak up the refreshment from the rain. Lay your sorrows at the roots and ask that they be cradled and held. All efforts toward healing, inner peace, love, forgiveness, and joy help us grow.

Finally, practice gratitude.

Say, “Thank you,” to the trees when you see a wooden chair, dresser, table, floor, picture frame, beam, barn, telephone pole, shed, cabin, deck, or a paper towel, envelope, pencil, mulch, greeting card, poster, napkin, or a wood-burning stove, campfire, or match stick. When you breathe, say, “Thank you.” When you eat an apple, orange, olive, nuts, chocolate, cherry, pear, or pour syrup over your pancakes, say, “Thank you.”

Recognize that when a tree is cut down, a living entity has been taken from our Earth home. Plant four trees for every one taken. Dig up cement, bring in dirt, and plant trees in our cities—especially in run-down, decaying sections. Refurbish dilapidated buildings and abandoned urban areas rather than destroying acres of beautiful mature trees to build more shopping centers and expensive housing developments. Speak up for the Trees.

How do we measure the value of a Tree? How many creatures make a single tree their home? What price do we place on oxygen, clean air, and healthy soil? How do we explain the cost of a forest to the children who are yet to come?

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.”


In joy and gratitude, 

Diana J. Ensign


The Lambi Fund of Haiti is celebrating its 20th Anniversary! The Lambi Fund helps to rebuild people’s lives by reforesting the ecosystem upon which they depend.*

A portion of my book sales from “Traveling Spirit: Daily Tools for Your Life’s Journey” goes to The Lambi Fund. Traveling Spirit: Daily Tools for Your Life’s Journey is available from Balboa Press. Buy it now on Amazon. Kindle edition is available here.

*“Reforestation is vital to Haiti’s future. Trees create natural barriers to flood waters. They provide soil with important nutrients and act as natural protectors of local water sources. With no trees or firm soil, overflowing waters rush forth carrying everything in its wake when storms and hurricanes hit–which destroys rural communities and agricultural land.” —Lambi Fund website

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