I am gazing out the window; an almost bare leafed apple tree’s sap has begun its descent for the winter months. Trees participate in a great round; breathing slows as the tree becomes drowsy. Soon the merciful cold will put her and others of her kind to sleep, not to awaken until life each tree’s life – blood thickens to rise and soar into the highest branches with a warming sun. Only tree roots stay awake throughout the winter searching for nutrients, exchanging carbon and carbohydrates, water, meeting new friends and avoiding foes, their root tips branching, fusing, glowing – solving problems far more complex than those of humans…
Last night a full white ‘falling leaf moon’ slid unobstructed through apple branches casting shadowy silver arms around our bed. My dogs were restless. I could see the rounded luminous pearl embedded in an ebony sky shining through all the deciduous trees that were dressed in scarlet splendor just a week ago. Last night those trees were bare.
There is a transparency to the forest that opens a secret door. With the wheat colored ferns curling earthward and the frosted brown ground cover laid low I can peer into the dark wood beyond the brook; such a comforting darkness spun out of deep Tree Peace and the change of season.
Raking leaves and apples into a pile of compost that will nourish next year’s garden and bringing down more wood to the porch are the last fall chores to be done. The mighty winter tasks are still ahead… coming with frigid temperatures and snowfall.
I am uneasy about winter because I tire easily now. Emphysema slows me down and lowers my energy on some days. I can no longer expect my body to respond to physical stresses with impunity. I must caregive myself. Fortunately, I have help nearby if I need it, and this makes the difference.
Although I still climb mountains I do so more slowly, my breathing is often labored; yet in many ways this allows me to see the stark colors of a glacial stone, the ribs of the great oaks. I take more time to identify each tree, each new seedling, each mushroom or fungus. The details of my surroundings if anything sharpen my attention and intention to stay present like never before. I am never in a hurry. Just to be able to breathe and walk is an incredible gift.
Breathing in and out with the threat of Covid on the rise.
Today, light rain moistens the few remaining leaves; most are scattered like fading rose petals covering the ground, slippery at night. Out of habit I listen for a rushing brook and hear no sound. The parched earth is ‘a lady in waiting’… and waters are stilled in pools that make no sound. The nourishing cascade of rain is still being withheld. My grief blends with that of Nature. I cannot separate the two.
My biological family is no more and I am currently repeating a cycle of mourning, though hope of a different kind hovers on the horizon.
The soft afternoon light and lengthening shadows seem to draw my eyes and heart towards the plants in my room. A giant passionflower is sending out more new shoots much to my astonishment (fall is usually the time these plants slow down). She is not yet ready for sleep. But most astounding are the small cuttings that languished for months during the fierce heat of summer as my fear and worry grew. Like me they collapsed in the sauna of stagnancy that characterized months of endless waiting for house help to appear. Three weeks ago in a moment of despair I almost threw these struggling root cuttings out.
I could barely discern that little voice that comes from both inside me and from without out when it admonished “don’t give up- put them in your bedroom.” And so I did.
I have always had an unusual relationship with plants and although I was ignorant of its identity for maybe thirty years, the Passionflower had been coming to me in dreams, telling me to keep my ear to the ground. Eventually I grew a Passionflower cutting of my own into a vining bush of monumental proportions and this plant and I became inseparable. Once, one of her children died when I was in crisis and was about to make a terrible mistake… it was then that I was forced to acknowledge that on some level this plant and I shared a mind and a body. I kept focused on the fact that a new mother plant thrived here this summer when nothing else did. I couldn’t ignore the message.
Almost immediately after bringing the cuttings into my room I noticed a dramatic change. Tips turned green, tiny nubs appeared at stem scars; life was returning in the fall! All this within a week. This morning when I gaze over at the healthy unfurling leaves I feel amazement, gratitude, even a few sparks of hope rising. That plant is telling me that although my life may appear to be fraught with difficulties, (house problems remain unsolved) something is happening… at least inside me.
Faith remains an anathema probably due to childhood/ adult abuse – Trust, even in Nature (except for my dogs), is withheld by some unconscious part of me. And yet, the presence of those green plant tips remind me of words I wrote without understanding “the deep green religion of hope lives on” and it manifests in the mind and body of these plants that are also the mind and body of me.
Trees plants and women have been in intimate relationship since the dawn of humankind. In our culture this kind of knowing has been bred out of us. However, if we choose to develop relationships with plants/trees inside or out and are able to keep an open mind these amazing Beings begin to speak through our bodies and minds. If we listen carefully we will learn which plants to use in order to help heal ourselves, which plants we need to grow for our emotional/spiritual/bodily health. Women were, of course, the first healers, and we still embody that ability. If ever there was a time to develop this relationship on a personal and collective level it is now.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.