I went to the wilderness to find respite from the “terrible” day at the lab. Lessons in bravery, I am discovering, can leave one fragmented at the core.
As soon as I arrived, I found community. This was a feeling I had not perceived so clearly since I left my home planet.
Everywhere was a buzz of communication. Through the air, through the ground, through every leaf, through each insect, through every bird, spider, reptile, mammal, and fish a network of energy sped.
Here, in the midst of this electrochemical communication of firs, pines, ferns, mychorrhizal fungi, elderberries, grasses, and wildflowers, I heard the harmony of connection.
It is like this at home, where we share thought, feeling, and impulse with the system around us, and one moves and acts always as an integrated part of the whole, as if we each were a cell of a larger organism–which, in a very real way, is what we each are.
From the field of connection, I discerned a single thread. I followed this to see where it would lead.
With ears keen enough, with membrane sensitive enough, with a mind open–through taste and smell and touch, one can perceive the vast network of communication and connection which nurtures and informs each member of this system.
The trees speak! This is what those who love the forest and meadow have always known!
My friend-in-spirit John Muir, who walked these same lands when these pines and firs were not quite as tall as they are now, wrote:
But the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and furrowed bole; not one is forgotten; the Mountain Pine towering with outstretched arms on the rugged buttresses of the icy peaks, the lowliest and most retiring tenant of the dells; they seek and find them all, caressing them tenderly, bending them in lusty exercise, stimulating their growth, plucking off a leaf or limb as required, or removing an entire tree or grove, now whispering and cooing through the branches like a sleepy child, now roaring like the ocean; the winds blessing the forests, the forests the winds, with ineffable beauty and harmony as the sure result.”
The whisper and coos of the wind are part of this connection–the breath along which some of these currents of energy and communication ride.
Those with sensitive systems have heard this. The writer George Eliot, whose novels I read on my home planet during my early years as part of my lessons in learning of life elsewhere, has written:
If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”
I feel that she has heard this–else how would she know of this roar? It is not stupidity that shuts our ears–but too much thought, too much chatter. That and the belief that we are all separate.
Still the thoughts for an instant–rest inside that silence–and up rushes not silence at all but a wave of information and intelligence! Here! We are here! Listen. Smell. Feel the electrochemicals travel through air and cell.
Perhaps it is something that all two-leggeds feel when they step among the grasses and trees and other living beings. Yet thought and preoccupation with emotion and the daily concerns of living block the awareness of all this that one feels and knows.
Perhaps all it takes is a moment of silence–to let one’s attention settle into the keenness that is at the core of all of our senses–and then this language takes root inside of us, and we can hear and feel the buzz and chatter that connects each with all.
The pioneer Suzanne Simard, who has helped to show these connections to people in ways they can measure, writes in Conversations with the Forest:
We sense deeply, even if we do not understand completely, that there is much more to these beautiful places than the collection of immobile trees, plants and fungi–ergo “habitat”–that modern reductionist science has deconstructed forests to be.”
Community is available to each of us, when we trust what it is that we feel in the stillness of the wilderness–in those moments before and after the stillness opens into the riot of love that connects all.
I heard the buzz call my name. Silduun! Not in so many words, but in the specific pattern of energy, sound, scent, and taste that form the forest’s style of pronunciation. Silduun!
I followed the sound to see who was calling me.
The sound–it was more than a sound one hears with the ears; it was also a sound that one feels–ran through not just the air but also the ground. I felt it like a buzz, calling my name, leading me on through forest, through bramble, to high mountain meadows.
There it was, at my feet, a cluster of sorrel, whose rhizomes had carried my name through the humus of the forest floor.
I heard my name clearly and loudly and felt the buzz that spelled my syllables.
Two luna moths rode a current in the air, also alive with the syllables of my name.
“This way,” they said, “source is more!”
“Thank you, kind sorels,” I said. “You are fine messengers and couriers in this garden home!”
I turned and followed the moths, back to the edge of the clearing. My name was broadcast loud and clear, like the clang of the portal on a no-sun frost morning.
A mother tree called to me, “Welcome. We’ve been expecting you. Be at home.”
She was the center from whom the charge of pulse carried, traveling down rhizome, through air until it reached me to call me to her.
And I thought how right that my first official welcome to Earth would come from this center of community, a mother tree.