There’s a giant redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) that towers over the north side of our house. It’s an immense presence. I’ve admired it, and even said “hello” a few times in passing, but never sat down and tried to have a conversation.
So one sunny day I sit down in the duff, and ask the tree “who are you?” After a few moments of silence, the tree responds.
She tells me she is a mother, and her children are down near the south end of the property and on the other side of the fence, something I did not notice before.
I’ve always thought of her as solitary, but she tells me that she is never alone. She is intimately rooted with her kin. Her roots and branches are entangled and intertwined with all of creation.
Her voice is calm and regal. She is powerful. She is strong. She protects the land, the water, the birds and the animals. She provides home and habitat, food and medicine. She nourishes and is nourished by the soil and the rain. She knows her worth. She’s unbroken. She’s whole.
She tells me she is an elder. That she has been here longer than any of the houses here, many of which are built from the bones of her brothers and sisters.
She tells me this was once a mighty forest. That the soil is the blood of her ancestors. That the land was once wild and untamed. Wolves and bears roamed here. Birds darkened the skies. Fish teemed in the estuary. Berries burst in the understory. People tended the landscape with respect and reverence.
We sit in silence for a moment, remembering. Then she asks me: “Who Are You?” I’m surprised and cannot answer her. The truth is I don’t really know who I am.
And then she speaks again, loud and clear.
She asks to be revered. Worshipped. Deified. She asks to be seen for who she is, and appreciated for the gifts that she brings into the world. She asks to be loved. She asks for ceremony and celebration of her life. Recognition. Acknowledgement. Gratitude.
She tells me she is a miracle. How she transforms the raw materials of life – soil, air and water – into form. How she stands firm and still in her core, roots anchored beneath the surface, yet can bend and dance her whole being with the wind. She sings in a storm.
She tells me she’s a survivor. One of the last of her kind. Vulnerable to chainsaws and the onslaught of industrial civilization. But still standing. Growing deeper and taller every year. She reaches out to connect. She tells her story to all who would listen.
Afterwards, I thank the tree. I realize this tree is a blessing, a mirror to my own strength and personal resilience. Our conversation is an invitation for me to become greater than I am. To stand tall and stay anchored even when the winds of change are howling. To sing in a storm. To share my story with all who would listen. To always take time to listen to trees.