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.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Talking To the Trees

Recently I heard that a friend had received bad news about 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 prayed. 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 probably connect to all the other trees in the forest, and I imagined her sharing my words with them. When the wind picked up, the forest gathered the message in its leaves and sent it through the sky to the trees near where my friend was ailing. They sang to her in the movement of their leaves, and brought her something that she needed, perhaps only a word or a soothing sound that calmed her fears and allowed her to sleep for a couple of hours.

Does my talking to the trees, or lighting candles, change anything? Does prayer? Prayer doesn’t make anything happen. It’s a mode of communication not a vending machine where I can ask for something and automatically get it. God is also not our butler, hanging around waiting to do our bidding. But if I ask God for advice, 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 that I’m doing this, this makes a difference to her. She might even like the image. 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’m going to sing Gregorian chant with the Trappist monks at Gethsemani Monastery and think about him for an hour at 7 p.m. tonight. During that hour he 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’s lives, that the sharing affects them.

Perhaps this makes a difference on the physical level as well. 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 generating compassion, or 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 more peaceful themselves. You know how seeing someone with a beaming smile makes you feel good? It’s like that. We become the compassion.

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.