A Tribute to Trees

/ Photo by krisdecurtis /

We didn’t get our Christmas tree until the week before Christmas.

I had a gallbladder attack with intense abdominal pain at Thanksgiving and it took me three weeks to fully recover. Thanksgiving marks the starting gate into the holiday season, and I didn’t leap through that gate, I crawled. Before we knew it, the calendar said December 17th, and we didn’t yet have our Christmas tree.

Once we got our Christmas tree, there was a palpable shift. We finally had a host to set a friendly tone for the Christmas holidays. The pine scent freshened our living room and our breathing opened. We felt protected and emotionally soothed, adorned with the warm presence of the pine tree.

This Yueltide companion does more than provide a decorative centerpiece for a family holiday. Pine trees with their earthy, fresh-forest fragrance offer emotional support. The pine tree is a Grandfather and with his warm outstretched arms he serves as a noble guardian at Christmastime and throughout the year.

“Pine comes from a word that translates as “pain” and its essence helps alleviate pain within on many levels…Pine has an archetypal energy and message about eliminating our feelings of guilt and balancing over-emotionalism. The pine spirit is kind and sensitive and loves contacts with humans.”
— Ted Andrews, nature expert and author of Nature Speak

Trees as Community

When I see a bald mountaintop, I feel a loss of community, a loss of nature’s neighborhood, an absence of the whispering wind for listening and crunchy leaves for resting.

/ Photo by Shayan (USA) /

When I walked among the redwood trees in Northern California, I entered a musical land where fairies must swing joyously from branch to branch.

/ Photo by D’Arcy Norman /

When I sat under the Banyan Tree, a tree that stretches a whole block along Front Street in Lahaina, Maui, I felt embraced by community.

When I walked in old neighborhoods like Mapleton Hill in Boulder, Colorado where the trees reach towards the sky, I know I’ve touched the ancient ones. These trees are old friends, and to hug one is to have a forever-friend to lean on.

I’m drawn to the forest, or even to a backyard with a group of trees. It isn’t just for their rich greenery and some welcome shade during a hot summer, but for their trusted companionship.

Talking Trees

Did you know trees have their own SOS signal? They have their own biological defense system that warns others trees of approaching danger. When one tree is threatened, it releases a chemical in its leaves that discourages pests. This scent when it goes airborne communicates to neighboring trees to do the same to protect their immunity. Trees communicate via wind and scent to their tree neighbors; this is their email and it reaches over long distances.

How can we teach our children that trees are more than the Christmas tree, the support for a tree house, or just the source of wood for our house?

A child can commune with a tree by visiting a community of trees in a national park, or by hiking a trail on the outskirts of town. It’s important for the child to connect with nature in an environment where nature hasn’t been caged in or cut down.

There’s a children’s book called Tree Talk by Ana Salote that encourages a deep fellowship with nature, an honest introduction for a child to the interdependence of all things and the environmental problems we face today.

Trees as Living Creatures

When we bring in a Christmas tree to our home, we bring in the life of the forest and a member of that forest community. A tree is a living thing that does much more than wear our holiday ornaments. They teach us how to band together and the importance of the group. They blanket us with emotional security by helping us stay rooted and balanced. They remind us that we always live in the house of nature first where the sky is our roof and the earth is our foundation.

In the sacred Hindu text, the Mahabharata, one priest questions the other about whether a tree because of its density and lack of movement has the same senses as other living creatures:

“Brigu said: Without doubt, though possessed of density, trees have space within them. The putting forth of flowers and fruits is always taking place in them. They have heat within them in consequence of which leaf, bark, fruit and flower, are seen to droop. They sicken and dry up. That shows they have perception of touch. Through sound of wind and fire and thunder, their fruits and flowers drop down. Sound is perceived through the ear. Trees have, therefore, ears and do hear. A creeper winds round a tree and goes about all sides. A blind thing cannot find its way. For this reason it is evident that trees have vision.”
— Mahabharata, translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

The next time you gaze upon a Christmas tree look beyond the bright lights to see its good spirit that resides within. And when you are amidst a forest, make sure to listen to the wind.

9 comments on “A Tribute to Trees

  1. Christine Santoro says:

    Wow, I never quite thought of it that way. Now it makes sense why I’m so comforted by Christmas trees. It’s really their energy and of course what it represents. And the pine smell, it does have a soothing quality. I love it. All very interesting…..Hope your all better now!

  2. Christine,
    I love that fresh pine scent too! Another thing I love about trees is resting my back up against a tree in nature’s easy chair while reading a good book. And thank you, I’m all better now. 🙂

  3. Radha says:

    But then why need the Christmas tree be cut and put into your own house – when you know they can feel and you love them. The Pines must hate Christmas, knowing there can never be another Christmas for them. If you love something/someone, dont you put their longevity, happiness, wellbeing before your own? Even as a child I wondered why the tree cannot be decorated while alive and then be allowed to go on living as a thank you.
    In India, we have a tradition of tree- pooja. Every evening one offers the tree of ones choice some water, some light and some company by sitting with them and maybe chanting for them or praying with them or just being with them.

  4. Radha,
    We’ve had a living tree most years for this very reason. We wanted to see the same tree year after year with its new branches. Your comment about the pooja tradition resonated deeply, reminding me not what the tree has to offer, but what I can offer the tree.

  5. Radha says:

    How beautiful your tree must be – does he have a name? i became aware as a teenager of tree-response. On the way back home from school I used to pass a huge bougainvillea bush. It was so very beautiful. I would touch and greet it everyday. then I began to notice that its branches would move as if to greet me even when it was very still…. it was so strange. i loved it. I’ve always so much happier with only plants and animals for company… for one, they dont make bad noise. Are there any fast practical ways to make most people realise this, just reading about it is not as effective. do you know ?

  6. Radha,
    We haven’t named our tree yet, but that’s a good idea! In your writing, there is a poetry and a deep connection — your spirituality really comes through.
    How to help other people connect to nature? By recognizing that there is a Divine energy in all things, and that energy resonates and communicates. We feel a bond to nature that’s without words. Checking in with feeling, sensing, and listening. There are several books that broadened my perspective on nature and there are exercises in them that can awaken awareness. They are all by Ted Andrews: Animal-Speak, Nature-Speak, and Animal-Wise. Enjoy!

  7. Radha says:

    Thank you Michele, I will try and find these books, I really need them. We have a Yoga Jungle retreat starting from the 14 Jan for a group of 25 Swedes. The camp site is lovely and I’m planning to introduce them to tree pooja. I’m very excited. I want also to direct them to your blog, I hope that would be ok. Waking up in the jungle, practising yoga, weaving, living for a few days as a community, living very simply (but with proper toilets), does something to people .. to be further connected to you will help them keep the experience alive.

  8. Radha,
    I hope all goes beautifully at this Yoga Jungle retreat mid-January. Yes, yes, please introduce them to the New Vision Blog. May they feel awakened, enlightened, and embraced at the retreat and also through connecting with this blog community.

  9. ana salote says:

    Hi Michele,
    Thanks for your mention of my book, Tree Talk. It was inspired by a moonlit ash tree outside my bedroom window which had a powerful air of sentience about it. I feel as you do. Keep spreading the word.
    Love, Ana

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