Trees are a rich metaphor to tell our stories, record natural history, teach us life lessons and connect all creatures to one another.
I cannot find this book. When I was in grade school I swear I read a Caldecott winner about the life and growth of a small redwood. I remember suffering along with it through winds, rain, cold and snow. Imagining its smallness on the forest floor next to the huge elders who had seen decades of forest life through fire and the woodcutter’s saw. In spite of its trials, the tiny seedling grew into a tall redwood. I could identify with the little tree, feeling the same desire to be grown up, and the impatience with the slow passage of time. Perhaps it was really Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Fir Tree that I am thinking of– who grew up to give its life to be a Christmas Tree. I don’t remember.
I continue to take inspiration from trees–they teach us how to live in different seasons, store resources during dormant periods, clean the air and water around us, model longevity and growth. Plus store their entire history inside their trunk. As you can see from my blog masthead, I have used the image of a live oak to symbolize the family tree. That is just one archetype–others abound in philosophy, religion, science and mythology.
Trees stand as stoic elders, protect us from harsh winds, provide shady comfort, inspire artists and scientists. They are landmarks and guideposts on a journey, when we cannot find our way. They bear fruit, create shelter, and give sustenance long after they fall.
My yoga teacher, LuChin mentioned an inspiring interview she heard with a forest ecologist. Often in yoga class we incorporate a loving kindness meditation, that reminds us that we are connected to all other living creatures. I was curious, and found the interview aired on NPR’s Fresh Air program. Her name is Suzanne Simard, Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her observations, testing and experiments on trees have revealed complex networks of fungi that have huge impacts on the health of forests. Trees can nurture a new generation, heal the sick, share nutrients with others and recognize their kin. She shares her experiences over a lifetime in the forests– from young scientist, to mother and breast cancer survivor in her memoir, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.
For the first time I called Kerri Miller.
This morning on my public radio station, Suzanne Simard was interviewed by the show’s host, Kerri Miller. For years I have listened to her show and have been a devoted fan of her author interviews and informative guests. I did not hesitate. I dialed the number I knew by heart and an MPR screener picked up on the first ring! She told me the process, asked me to state my name and where I was calling from, and what question or comment I had for Kerri’s guest. My heart was pounding, as I tried to formulate a specific idea from the jumble in my head. When it was my turn on the air, I heard myself asking Dr. Simard to say more about why she chose memoir as a way to present a story of science. I loved her answer, that the forest is a place of home for her–where she immediately relaxes, finds peace, and healing. She greets her familiar friends, “Hi guys,” gives the yews a hug and thanks them for their life giving medicine. I can’t wait to read her memoir, it’s like she has written the book for me.