The Language of Trees




That time before noon, as we put our tools up, as our thoughts taper off, is a time susceptible to musing the stillness of things:  the orchard, its naked green and gray concrete bodies that never seem to shiver and never seem to consider themselves concerned of the cold; and the sun, in winter, reaching the sky just enough to tell us time is moving but like all of us in winter it also is wanting for rest; and ourselves tucked away with a vista of the rest of the farm, to be in sight, yet to be removed just enough to be a part of another place—an important ingredient in all healing; and the air, still then but I could feel the wind coming.  I’m not sure how I’ve come to recognize this sensation; for whatever reason, I’ve had that affinity to the wind lately. Maybe the wind is something I’ve been hoping for this week, the fresh perspective, the space for or breath of new thought, or the ideas that come with it.
Yvonne had stepped away with her work in the dairy to treasure some of the calmness of the trees.  I stepped down from the ladder and we spoke for some while before noon in the orchard. “Surely there’s a way to listen to the trees, too.  The house plants,” Yvonne began to note, simultaneously studying the unsightliness and volume of the crabapple and pear trees, “seem to make themselves known when they become thirsty.   You know how they can go such a long time without attention?  And then one day they stand to make their subtle needs known.  ‘Cough, Cough…waaater.’” Yvonne enacted breaking into a chuckle.

It had been pruning that day.  And with such meticulous work, at least for me, comes long study and patience for such a learning curve.  To know to prune fruit trees best is to know how to approach clearing in our own life, and that was indeed my work for the day.  That was indeed the work this past week (month, maybe; year, truly) as in my own life I’ve been met with overgrowth and such small fruits.  I’ve been met with that unavoidable need to cut down somethings—gosh, what a wonderfully overused metaphor, isn’t it?  But we all have to learn it at some point, to become familiar with the mirroring side of life—of these reiterate a very necessary shift in my life.  I could belabor the metaphor, but that’s not what I need to write about right now.  What is important is the necessary listening.

My thoughts settled somewhere on what Yvonne had said of the plants.  I suppose cannot speak for nature, just as much, if not more so, how I cannot speak for other people.  But I agreed with Yvonne; there is that little voice in there, and I certainly believe it, emitted from plants—all things, maybe.  It’s like I can walk into my trailer and instantly feel there is something off, the weakening houseplants for instance.  Or I could walk under the fruit trees, like today, and know there is something needed.  That may be because of our relationship. I am not a friend to the trees as I am to people, I don’t presume all nature is asking for anything, especially not trying to call its attention to humans, but I do recognize these trees were planted here, after all, and have been cared for in a manner that departs from the independence of the undomesticated world.  In which case, that voice is heard more often; in which case, that voice can be listened to.
As I came to a stop just before lunch, as Yvonne had left from the conversation, I sat in the tall grass, in the sun and on my knees, and the wind followed.  It didn’t say much at first but as I listened what began with one thought became a hundred more question.  As I reached, as I listened to the wind, I realized that to speak the language of trees is not far off of learning the subtle language of the body, I suppose; the stillness and silence and solitude that there is in all of us, maybe.  So often noticed only in the echoing empty ravines of our own wanting and needing. It’s familiar isn’t it?  And maybe that familiarity is the only reason I have heard the trees speaking, asking gently, for what it is they are needed in this life.

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