This is in response to beautiful Ka, at Fiesta Estrellas. She is in the process of creating a very special tree painting, and has requested answers to these 3 questions:
If you were a tree, what would you feel like?
What kind would you be?
If you could choose to make artwork to honor a tree, what format/media/style would it be
I will speak as a ponderosa pine, as theirs is the habitat in which I live. I thought about willow or oak, as they are here too, and quite meaningful, but ponderosa has spoken to me the most this week, as I have pondered these questions. My style is photography with words.
For almost 300 years I have been standing amongst my friends. Ah, so many friends have I, who have come and gone over the course of my life. I have loved them all.
I feel the breath of my ancestors in the soft fluttering breeze that dances with my needles, and in the gales of 90 mile an hour winds that bend me, and together we sound like the ocean.
I feel their spirits in my roots. Their bodies have given us the nourishment to grow to be this old. They are part of the moist soil now.
I feel the fungus, too, in my roots. Through the mycelia, we are all connected; a whole network underground. They feed us. I take in the CO2 from the atmosphere, split it into oxygen, which cleanses the air; and liquid carbon that I make into sugar for my food. Some of the carbon leaks out of my roots to feed the soil microbes and fungus, and in return, they give us nutrients that they make. It is a good relationship.
I have lost a lot of friends to drought. The last 12 years have been so dry. Other trees, little winged ones, water animals, other four- leggeds have died due to drought.
This has been a wet year. We all feel rejuvenated.
I am too old, and past child bearing years, but the young ones are all growing cones this year. You can smell the fragrant vanilla scented perfume in the air. We transmit that to each other, especially during wet years when we all decide this is the year to create.
When one lives for many years, like me, there is an awareness that grows over time. I know every inch of the soil my roots touch; all the little pebbles, the large boulders, the other roots, the fungi mycelia, the worms, the water from the creek. I know all the beings in the forest from soil microbes to hawks. I delight in them all. The ecosystem always stays in balance.
Do you see that tree over there? The scars you see are from a porcupine.
Now you would think that the tree might resent that animal, but we all love them. They sing, you know. More like happy humming. Their quills look like needles from a distance, so they just look like a clump of needles in the tree because they stay very still for a long time as the eat the cambium below the bark. Sometimes, they kill the tree. The porcupine helps us thin out, so that we are all healthier. They also make us grow into odd shapes. There is beauty and character in imperfection.
There is a female person who comes here often. She frequently sits, leaning against me, looking over the creek. I have cradled her with love and strength for years. She calls me Grandmother. Sometimes she collects a few of my needles to make tea to help her breathe, and for the vitamin C. She says I give her inner peace, tranquility and calm. My vanilla fragrance, she says, is like aroma therapy, invigorating her body and soul. She tells me I teach her about resilience, determination and balance; and that I remind her to rise above difficulties and to persist against all odds.
When she first saw that I had been struck by lightning last year, I could feel her saddened heart. She hugged me for a long time.
I want to tell her that it is fine. I don’t mind at all. Death makes Life that much more precious. My girlfriend and I will die together. We are both old. We have been standing together since we were but tender shoots.
It is as it should be. I will send sugar to my surviving green branches, and the squirrels will eat them and have life. I want them to live. I love how they feel on my branches, nibbling. I love unconditionally. I don’t mind giving up my life a little sooner. Squirrel goes for the sugar, and in the process, clumps of green needles fall to the ground where they are eaten by rabbits and mice. They are rich in vitamins and minerals for them. I love watching them enjoy what I can give.
My death will be slow, over a few years, as being a large tree, my sap runs slow, and leaks out not very fast. Because of the drought, my immune system was low, so being struck was a sure death sentence. Now that there is more moisture, my death will be slower, so my heartwood will continue to strengthen. I am happy about this because I will get to be a snag, so after my death my body will house birds for a long time. I feel my heartwood is strong because I have loved deeply.
I can feel a flicker already pecking my trunk. The sound is loud, attracting a mate. The hole he has made becomes their home where they will raise little flickers.
Next year maybe a bluebird or a chickadee or nuthatch or swallow will live in me. I get to see all this before I die. Then my body will continue to stand tall for them. I am proud of that. Eventually a strong wind will knock my frame down, and the younger trees will grow on the sustenance of it, and know that their ancestor is part of them. It is a beautiful cycle.
I am a fortunate tree, indeed, to stand so close to a creek. I so enjoy watching the beavers, muskrats, herons, geese, ducks, lizards, turtles, dragonflies and all the wetland creatures.
I love the frogs.
They call in the rain every year, and this year, the rain heard them. There is a cleansing happening. I feel the joy from all the trees. It is good.
The feeling of friction as the storms drag over us is invigorating, unless of course you get struck as did I, but the echoing of the thunder all the way down canyon is extraordinary, and the ensuing rain, sublime.
The feel of a tree lizard meditating is a calming thing. Then they grab an ant and chew it right there. They are such friendly little reptiles, the way they tilt their heads and listen to the female person.
She saw a baby fox today. I could tell she was thrilled. She looked up and there it was cautiously staring at her. She spoke lovingly to it and then asked if she could take its picture. She took 3. She got up because she knew it wanted to drink and wouldn’t do so with her there. The fox let out a sustained raspy bark. I could tell the female person was entranced. “Do it again,” she requested softly, and it did! She thanked the baby fox, as she thanks me every day she walks by.
She touches my wounds and pours love into them.
I saw her tell a younger tree how magnificent it was, and that its new pine cone clumps looked like bouquets. That tree could feel her love, and just glowed with the vibration of love.
The baby birds are fledging now. They are all learning their alarm calls. The whole forest echoes with peeps, chirps and squeals. It is a cacophony of liveliness.
There has been such wonder in my life. The snow, that tickles as it melts and leaves my bark saturated,
The kiss of a butterfly, the barely felt weight of bird feet, the songs they sing; the grasses and flowers; the willows, rocky mountain juniper, oak and mountain mahogany; the deer and elk; the bear and mountain lions; the hawks and the owls; the robins nest in my branches; the kingfisher that watches for fish from its favorite branch, the crafty packrat and the coyotes So blessed am I to be witness to all of this life.
I have a double focus. I can be aware of all of these beauties, yet float in the ethers of the Divine at the same time. I love my life. My roots curling around rock, and my arms reaching for the sky. I Am.
After a rain, I love to bathe in the myst.
And ah, the moon. As she rises behind me, whether day or night, she seems so close, I can feel her pull.
I have watched this place for 300 years, and no two days have been alike. I suppose you could say I have endurance. I have seen so much change. I have learned to love unconditionally, but not be too sentimental. Nature seeks balance for the ecosystem, and can sometimes appear ruthless. I have learned to respect this and not take it personally. I live in the moment.
I embrace the darkness and the night ambiance. Even the dead branches are symbols of death and darkness, the green needles – life and rebirth.
As the longest day of light rises and sets, I will love the sun, as it energizes and feeds us, and thank it for its consistency and Light all of these years.
I am grateful to be a tree.
Happy Solstice everyone!