Monday, March 7, 2016

Thomas Moore's Lessons/ Spirituality from Trees, Plant Life, Roots, and Front Yard Gardens

(Image from Lewis Blackwell's lovely book "Trees" CLICK FOR MORE.)
In between  loads of laundry and changing sheets, I have been reading Thomas Moore's book, "The Re Enchantment of Everyday Life." The poetry, imagination, practicality, and research are insightful. The read is relevant to me right now because Canada's prairie's in March are full of hope but also slight depression. Even though the weather can get into plus temperatures, teasing with thoughts of spring, the earth is still brown, and the trees are in hibernation mode. Near my Anam Cara (see side label) there is a row of Pine trees. If I sit in the right place by Anam Cara's main window, the view has a look of a secluded Forrest. A friend once exclaimed, "From here it looks like you do not have any neighbours!" When my soul is in turmoil or people are getting to me, I look at this view and feel my soul sigh deep. Peace is found simply from looking at a row of ever green trees.

I have always felt a deep kinship to trees and plants. I admit I cried in Avatar when the tree was cut down. In Lord of the Rings, I mourned with Tolkien when the trees were used to create war/ industry. I relate to Galadriel not only because she is a fellow INFJ, but because she has a sacred belonging with trees.  I sense a kinship of sorts in rooted being. I have been accused of being New Agey in this regard which I would not say completely describes my philosophy in life, but I understand the assumption. Anam Cara is bursting with plant life. As of the last count we had 92 living plants in our home. I have the greatest weakness for bringing home green. Years ago, I could not keep one plant alive. Any plant I touched ended up being tossed into the mulch pile. Stubborn sums up a lot of my personality. I wanted trees to live in my home, and with a bit of research, the luck of relocating to a southern facing home, and a collaborative effort with my husband we now have a lush landscape of inside greenery. John Fowles writes,"As long as nature is seen as in some way outside us, frontier and foreign, separate, is lost both to us and in us." I wanted a fusion of nature both inside and outside  home.
"The 'cosmic tree' appears in religions, mythologies, paintings, and dreams around the world, and is so central and richly elaborated in art and story that one is tempted to think that the tree, and not the chimp or the dog, is humankind's closest companion in nature. The vast, creative inner truth of the tree extends itself outwards into paintings, decorations, sculptures, poems, songs with such extravagant fertility that the care of trees must at the same time be care of the human imagination. The tree teaches us so vividly to see eternity in our immediate environment that it is impossible to imagine art and religion without it...At the same time nothing is more ordinary than a tree, and I doubt that we can find enchantment merely in the symbol. We need real trees in our world...we don't have to study the symbolism of trees to be affected by them emotionally and intellectually, but we may have to be aware of them and give them daily honest regard." (Thomas Moore)  Trees, in moderation, should be used for needs, yet trees should not be raped, pillaged and disregarded either.  

"We can sit on a tree's limb, rest against its trunk, enjoy it's nuts and fruits, sit under its shade, and watch it dance in the wind. The lessons we can learn from a tree are infinite and it's pleasures indescribable. There are moments in any one's life when to be like a tree- tall, straight, fertile, rooted, branching, expressive, and solid-would be the most effective therapy."(Thomas Moore) I can almost hear Hagood Hardy's piano ballad "Anne's theme" when I sit near a tree or Louis Armstrong's gravely voice croon, "What a Wonderful World." Plant life brings song. A tree is part of a place, bringing comfort, expression, memories and healing. Community is exemplified in groupings of trees. Trees teach with growth and provide spiritual atmospheres of worship. "People want to meet, have picnics, and get married under certain trees, and have their pictures taken with them. All of these are indications that trees are not mere material objects but have a body, soul, and spirit." (Thomas Moore)

Why do we plain back our front yards into boring grassy pieces of mowed land? In her book Front Yard Gardens (click) Liz Primeau discusses how front yard gardens cut down on water usage and feed our bees and ecosystem. She points out that standard grassy plains are expensive to maintain because of their water usage, poison control, and lack of benefit to our surroundings. The whimsical suggestions for each planting zone are an excellent source of inspiration and wisdom. 

Years ago, my husband's co-worker found out how much I loved and protected trees. He accused me of not caring for orphans which is ironic considering he knew my history of foster ship training, and advocacy and money I gave to saving children. He wore a hard hat to work the next day with black marker scrolled, "Save the children not the trees." This proved ignorant. Orphans and trees go hand in hand. The soul who regards trees with respect, will also value a human life even more so. The fundamental issue is the philosophy behind life's sacredness. Trees teach us how to go about this thought process. Trees grow with imperfect bark, twiggy branches, and gnarled hands yet the epitome of creation is inevitably seen. To save a tree is to give life for future generations. Growing up in a Christian school when Disney's Pocahontas came out I witnessed this ignorance first hand. "We do not believe God is in a tree." And that was that. Even as a child, this secretly sat wrong with me. Deep down in my spirit, my inner child thought we were taking things too literally. If there is belief in some creator/god should there not be an assumption of the creation enchantment and charm? The Divine symbolized knowledge of good and evil in a tree, right? The tree was a powerful tool of god given choice. The beauty I still see in the Christian religion, is that at it's roots, there seems to be an element of given choice. Sadly, Christian religion has often been used as a guise to "claim" things and to have "power over all" instead of sacred enjoyment and practical usage. 

Pocahontas sings, "You think you own whatever land you land on. The earth is just a dead thing you can claim. But I know every rock and tree and creature, has a life, has a spirit, has a name." This is where christians get uneasy, "We do not worship a God in trees." Native Spirituality was more advanced in this regard. A deep regard for the living substances of earth...not just humanity, was rooted in their foundations of respect. Just like the religion of Christianity, Native Spirituality, as a religion, is potentially flawed in many aspects, but it has concepts to teach too. The earth, from the beginning, was not a dead thing we could claim. In Bible class I was taught that we were given the sacred task of naming and caring. We were given care and enchantment in the beginning according to christian myth/ truth (depending on your stance) and a garden to tend. In the creation story, trees are made immediately after the first human being.

"Every patch of ground that has a tree growing in it echoes Eden and is a reminder of our origins in an enchanted garden. Once we stop taking trees literally, we begin to see how they frame the world we look at every minute of our outdoor life, how they set a limit to the upward reach of the land, and how tall and branching, they stand like nature's doubles of ourselves. If we stop to think about the trees in our life, we begin to understand how fully capable they are of relatedness, intimacy and meaning." Thomas Moore. "Trees are teachers, revealers, containers, companions, and protectors of the sacred, and our relationship to them, whether we meet them gently in a forest or, muscled and equipped, cut them down for the price of lumber, touches on our deepest values, emotions and sense of meaning. Divinity resides somehow in the marrow of a tree and in the sanctuary made of the overarching branches of an avenue or the columns of a grove or the mere umbrella of a trees foliage. 'Cleave a piece of wood,' says Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, 'I am there.'"(Thomas Moore) If christians think about this text, viewed as the foundation of their faith, I do not understand how they can not see the connection?

Regardless of what one believes, I often can tell the spirituality of another by how they regard bodies of water, rocks or trees. By spirituality I mean matters pertaining to the spirit and the respect of LIFE and general moralism.

Trees colour the wind with their leaves. Patience is taught in the seasons, protection in the bark, nurturance in the seeds, and empathy in the shadow. We can do ourselves a favour by dropping our insistence on literal interpretation for the "truth." This is one of the greatest disfavours literal interpretation and dissection has given. Metaphors, parables, stories, enchantment and myth are part of our collective growth. Mystery enshrouds humanity, the's the lost element in a balanced life. 
Religious connotations aside, the life giving aspects of rooted greens can not be ignored. For cleansing air in a home, NASA has figured out that three plants are needed for each 100 square foot room (CLICK). The health benefits from plants in the home are astounding. The research for planting more trees, flowers, and rooted things outside can not be ignored. Not only are roots a benefit to our spirit, but to our well being. Rooted life giving things affect our mind, body and soul. We are partially nourished, in all aspects of being, from varied forms of plant life and trees.

What lessons from trees have you taken? 

Post Edit: I still believe that it is ok to use trees for books ect. While E- books protect trees in a way, I find it a little bit sad that I can not engage in smelling the treated pages of a well loved book. Books are a sacred honour for the trees as long as we do not take the misuse to an alarming degree. We must also plant trees to replace the ones cut down and protect groves of trees. Trees were given for us to use, to eat, to build, to create..."We may not find our nature just by running into the woods or by spending our days in the company of books- which, after all, are trees shredded, soaked and dried out. We may have to find a way to live in both moist nature and dry culture, forgetful of neither but deeply enough attached to both so that mutual engagement is possible."- Thomas Moore

ALL QUOTES TAKEN FROM THOMAS MOORE'S THE RE-ENCHANTMENT OF EVERYDAY LIFE. (click) PAGES 22-30.  *The dark side of trees is also discussed in the book. Even if I do not subscribe to all the ideas in the book, it is a lovely work of art.
Another beautiful book on Trees is Lewis Blackwell's work of art (CLICK.)

Song Choice: What a Wonderful World- Louis Armstrong, Anne's Theme- Hagwood Hardy (I was delighted when I looked this song up after writing my post and someone also associated the song with images of trees! That was a delightful surprise and lovely proof of synchronicity.)


FlutistPride said...

The artist is in the artwork in some way, but the artist is not the artwork. Trees are a very multipurpose plant. They provide food, shelter, playgrounds, art, and shade. I like climbing trees (and rocks. and buildings. and pretty much anything that I am semi-allowed to climb on.) Trees also serve as guides to water, to civilization, and to God.

Sometimes, a tree and their conscience is the only Bible someone reads in their life. Although it grieves me that some people will never know the Bible simply because they have never seen one in their own language, it gives me hope that God wrote the Bible in creation. The clouds are chapters. The seasons are books. Each blade of grass is a verse. The intense tang of a lemon is a song of worship. (I like eating lemon wedges.) God is omnipresent, so, yes, He was in the tree you speak of. Creation is one of God's..."hotspots", if you will. The statement you heard at your Christian school was inaccurate. I don't know why they didn't point out creation as a way someone can find out about God without having a Bible available.

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40, ESV

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 ESV

That is the lesson I get from trees.

Kmarie A. said...

Just like the varying trees, each person and each form of belief has different thoughts on truth...or interpretations of the bible ect. I have a friend who shares your perspective and I respect it. It's poetic:) I especially enjoyed your first paragraph. Your imagery was also beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Ashe said...

Our tress have taught me to not sit under them. Pine trees drip sap that take 3-5 days of vigorous scrubbing to remove from your feet, pecan trees drip tannic acid that turns cars black, summer drops caterpillars that are sometimes of the stinging persuasion, autumn brings about pine cones and sweetgum balls and fruit and acorns and other things that don't feel good on your head or under your feet, and of course migratory flocks birds are a dripping hazard. Then there are the occasions where wasps and hornets have paper nests tucked away among the leaves...

But I love them anyway. Gotta have my plants and dirt. I would be miserable in an area with no trees, plants, or healthy amounts of dirt. Listening to the wind rustle through the leaves is very soothing and it provides a place for birds to sit and sing, and the cicadas to sit and howl. Trees also make for amusing moments like witnessing a squirrel chase a hawk out of a tree. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't saw it! Squirrels are surprisingly gutsy.

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe: Lol Spoken like a true INTJ. funny. you make a good point though...I can only handle the outdoor trees for a certain amount of time or certain types!:) You make our long winters sound very appealing:) We don't get those pests and such as much or only for a couple months!

Lol love the gustiness of squirrels:) Very cute:)

Ashe said...

Unless you had our wintry blackbirds to go along with those long winters alllll winter long. ;)
There are large patches of cane nearby and some years it feels like we host a few flocks worth of birds since the scrabbly branches of canes hold so many more birds than most trees with the same amount of space. And of course birds take personal offense to a clean vehicle! I'm starting to believe that chicken-house smell is not partial to chickens and instead hovers around large quantities of infamous white goop.

I can't pick a favorite tree though. I love crepe myrtles and mimosas for their blooms and slender build. Pine and cedar smell great all year. Oaks have great character in their "faces". Sycamore and birch trees have gorgeous bark. Maples are so colorful! Willows are simply elegant. The world would be very boring without trees. :)

Kmarie A. said...

Oh we do have blackbirds:) Yuck on the goop:(

I don't think I have ever hear of a crepe myrtle... I agree- trees are stunning.