Friday, March 13, 2015

Listening to the Talking Tree

We’ve recently moved into another house. Picking up forty-three years of living together and moving eight miles can be exhausting. The process has all gone fairly well. The house we’ve moved into was my parent’s home. With some work, we’ve incorporated their life together here with our future in this home. We already feel like we’ve lived here for years.

Part of moving into a new house is putting everything in its new place. Cathy has plenty of houseplants. She loves them dearly. She waters them. She’s been moving them around the house, assuring that they have the perfect light. She talks to them; asking each plant if they feel comfortable where she has set them. Cathy’s is a dialogue with the ancient.

Stephen Herrod Buhner in The Lost Language of Plants and David Abram in his book The Spell of the Sensuous present a strong case that before language, humans, animals, plants, and everything we consider inanimate shared knowledge. Humans have long had a communication connection with animals—it seems rather easy to image. With plants, however, we seem to have lost our innate ability to listen and learn from those of creation who provide us with sustenance and healing. Both Buhner and Abram point out what seems to be the obvious that in our loss of connection we are destroying the world around us and risking our existence.

My guess is, if you are reading this, you most likely agree with Buhner and Abram. Many of us are frustrated by the voices of denial and fear who have become strange bedfellows. Right-wing fundamentalists Christians have oddly enough joined forces with liberal atheists. Many politicians are in denial because global warming conflicts with capitalism. Many in the general public are in fear of scientific research, resulting in potential reoccurrences of diseases like measles. Those of us who are looking for some ground between common sense and twenty-first scientific research seem to be lost in the shouting from either side. The question is, "what can I do?"

For me, I’m going to start with admitting what neuroscientist David Eagleman suggests are the three most important words that science has given us, “I don’t know.” Honestly, I don’t know what is the best action to take. But not knowing what to do shouldn’t paralyze me. I can get involved. On the global, national, and local scene there are many worthwhile organizations with which I can share my resources and time. But beyond that, I have to take seriously my willingness to communicate with the world around me and ask them, the animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and stones, what they need from me.

While Cathy is talking to our houseplants, I’ve decided to make a connection with the trees, plants, flora, and stones surrounding our house. I’ve started the conversation with the largest, and what I surmise is the oldest, pine tree in the backyard. She seems to have been here before the house was built. My hope is she will tell me stories about the life before and clue me in how to best care for her and the rest of her friends. Sitting for a bit most every evening. Quite, expectant, hopeful—I’m listening. I’m ready to take action for the sake of my new friends and the world in which all live together.

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