Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sweet Music of the Trees

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.

John Muir, the 19th century Scottish born American naturalist and author, wrote those words. He used first hand experience to express his admiration, as well as connection with trees. He was instrumental in saving the wilderness areas of Yosemite Valley, and Sequoia National Park. Millions of people have read his outdoor adventures in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. He actually petitioned the US Congress for a National Park Bill, and it was passed in 1899. He founded the Sierra Club, which is now one of the most influential conservation organizations in the United States. Muir was an ecological thinker, religious prophet, and political spokesman, and his work is used to help people understand our relationship to nature and to all life forms.

Trees at first glance, are inanimate objects, which lacks perception and senses. We tend to measure everything by our own perceptions. If other forms of life don’t conform to what we believe to be real, then Iwe ignore or refuse to accept that they have senses and perceptions that are just a valid as ours. It seems the inner senses of the tree are closely related to the earth itself. They feel themselves growing. They are a form of consciousness that expresses itself in unique ways. Muir’s work makes us aware of how feeling trees are, and there’s no doubt they experience a form of pain. It’s not emotional or sensual pain. Think of it as the sense we feel when our breath is suddenly cut off. It can be unpleasant and agonizing, for the tree, although it shows no physical signs of trauma.

Trees retain an inner conscious awareness of all its parts. Trees adjust their roots to avoid impediments that may lie in their way; they live in two worlds and constantly adjust their parts in each world to experience life. In one world trees experiences little resistance as they grow upwards, but in their other world below the earth’s surface, they deal with heavier elements. As Muir points out trees are constantly in motion. The roots and limbs move in all directions. Trees exist in a trance like state, but are aware of what goes on around them. They recognize people by their vibrations, and use their inner senses as guides. Even the movement of ants and other visitors are noticed. Humidity, radioactivity and all electrical elements are sensed, and are considered real in the awareness of trees. Trees don’t see or build an image of a person or a thing; they build composite sensations, which represent individuals or things.

Even size is sensed by trees and the bark of the tree is like the human ego consciousness. It’s vibrant, flexible, and grows with the growth beneath the tree, just as our inner consciousness expands as our ego expands. The bark is the tree’s contact with the outer world, and functions as the ego functions. The consciousness of a tree teaches by example.

Henry David Thoreau also understood the consciousness of a tree.

He wrote:

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

And so did Jen Jensen, the 20th century landscape artist. He wrote this thought in his 1939 work Siftings:

Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone.

But the most interesting thought of all comes from Jack Handey, the 21st century humorist and author:

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

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