When I think of trees, I think of temples. For me trees represent temples. They provide both shade and sanctuary to all creatures. They feed the earth and give shelter to the birds. Trees are holy and vital to our well-being. Yes, I am a tree hugger. The vibrations of trees has a strong attraction for me.
For the past eight years I have sat back and watched over forty trees cut down all around us. It was devastating to see those old temples go. None of them deserved it. We were told the trees were a nuisance for they cut out light, they dropped leaves, they had nasty growing habits. So they met an untimely end by mutilation. I have never come to terms with the loss of trees. Although I have filled the garden, (although home now for sale,) with new trees. Among them, two beautiful young Weeping Willows, planted last winter. Hopefully, they will thrive at the bottom of the garden where they bother no one. Perhaps they will receive more care – new temples for a new age. I won’t be here to see them grow, I can only wish them well.
One of the most beautiful passages in literature and perhaps the most profound thoughts anyone has ever uttered about trees, comes from the pen of Hermann Hesses, whose melancholy joy and heartfelt understanding of his light and darkness strikes a cord with me.
This Ode to Trees is found in Hesse’s Wondering: Notes and Sketches, published in 1920, after caring for World War I prisoners and experiencing multiple family losses and conflicts:
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more, I revere them when they stand alone.
They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not loose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.
Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.
When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disc of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.
And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger, the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique in the form and veins of my skin, unique in the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust – I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the child-like hastiness of our thoughts will achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.
If trees could speak, they would say: “Please let us live!”