When a friend received bad news about her cancer, I thought, “I’ll go out and talk to the trees.”
Bear with me a moment. I used to light candles, think of those who needed support, and prayed. I sometimes still do, but talking to the trees seemed to be the right thing to do here.
When the wind picked up, I imaged that she was sharing my message through her leaves with forests further away, and then sending the message through the sky to the trees where my friend was ailing. They sang to her in the movement of their leaves, and brought her something 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 is a mode of communication, not a vending machine. God is 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?
Some of you may remember Clint Eastwood singing “I Talk to the Trees” in the movie Paint Your Wagon.Contrary to his experience, I think the trees do listen.
My spirit says 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 branches are moving, and the person I want to help knows that I’m doing this, and the branches in the trees around her are moving, this makes a difference to her. I know that I would be touched if someone were talking to the trees on my behalf. It’s the same feeling if someone knows that I am going to light a candle for her 7 p.m. and think about her for ten minutes. During that time, she feels my presence. Even though we’re separated by distance, we’re connected by time.
The Buddhists have a meditation (tonglen) that is like my tree talking. They sit in a room and focus on generating compassion. When they have kindled enough compassion, they send waves of it out to others who need it, people who probably aren’t even aware of this happening. Their belief is that this makes a difference in people’s lives.
And maybe something is going on in the physical world. Maybe trees release specific ions into the air and this is how they communicate with each other. A lot of things happen in the world I can’t explain. At the very least, doing something like generating compassion, lighting candles, or talking to trees, changes us and opens 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.