Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Talking to Trees

Recently I heard that a friend of a friend had received bad news about her cancer and I thought, “I’ll go out and talk to the trees.”

Bear with me a moment, my serious, organized-religion friends.

I used to light candles, think of those who needed support, and send healing vibes their way. I still do, but talking to the trees seemed to be the right thing to do here.

I went out and talked to their branches, to their leaves and roots, and especially to the sacred Mother Tree that is behind my house. She is so large and old that her roots could connect to all the other trees in the forest. And I imagine her sharing my words with them through her roots. Then, when the wind picks up, the forest gathers a message from all the branches of these trees and sends it through the sky to the one who is ailing.

Their roots also connect to the roots of the meadow grass next to them, and to the rocks and streams, and on to other forests that share with the trees next to the house where this person lives, and make their presence known. They sing to her and bring something she needs, perhaps a word or a soothing sound that calms her fears and allows her to sleep for a couple of hours.

Does my talking to the trees or lighting candles change anything? Does Christian prayer? Prayer does not make anything happen. It’s technically a mode of communication. It’s not that we can ask for something and automatically get it. God is not our servant. But if I ask God what I can do, and I hear back that I should talk to the trees, who am I to argue?

I want to say yes, that talking to trees helps, but my logical brain wants something more solid. Here it is. If I’m outside talking to the trees, and the person I want to help knows this, this makes a difference to her. I know that I would feel this way if someone were talking to the trees on my behalf. Same thing if someone knows that I am going to light a candle and think about her for an hour at 10 p.m. tonight. During that hour she feels my presence.

The Buddhists have a meditation that is like my tree talking. They sit in a room and focus on generating compassion. When they have kindled up enough compassion, they send waves of it out to others, people who probably aren’t even aware of this happening. The belief is that this makes a difference in people, that the sharing affects them.

Maybe this makes a difference on the physical level as well as the spiritual whimsy realm. Maybe it charges the ions in the air a specific way, or reshapes the structure of reality a little. A lot of things happen that I don’t understand. At the very least, doing something like lighting candles changes us and softens our heart to the suffering of others.

My logical brain again. If you fill yourself with compassion and go out among people, they will “feel” peacefulness coming from you, from the look in your eyes to your relaxed manner of walking, and they will feel a little more peaceful themselves. You know how seeing someone with a beaming smile makes you feel good? It’s like that. We become the compassion.

And if you do actions of compassion, like bending down to talk and smile for a moment with someone panhandling on the street, they will pick up on this, too. Other actions of compassion include sending cards, calling people on the phone, stopping in for visits, bringing food, going shopping, and helping with chores.

Here’s the thing. When we hear of someone who is struggling, we want to do something. So do SOMETHING, even if it’s just talking to the trees.


  1. Really good advice and beautifully put. Cheers!

  2. Fully in agreement with you .I too oftenly in the morning talk to trees and find tremendous solace.

    1. When I was young, I would climb high into the trees and sit for hours feeling at home. My love for trees continues.