• Maura McCarley Torkildson

The Shape of Trees's been a while. I have been busy with my new career supporting the formerly incarcerated to overcome barriers and find fulfilling work. I recently got the bug to write again, so here goes...

Wandering through the hills of Northern California, it is my habit to communicate with the trees. It starts when a tree “stands out.” I can take no notice of some trees on familiar trails quite often as I aim my feet towards another tree that captured my awareness. Whatever the mechanism, to my “logical” mind it appears quite random. Why a tree suddenly stands out to my attention, where I didn’t notice before is a mystery. I trust there is a purpose in the way this happens. “Standing out” is a communication from the tree, the subtleties of which I am ignorant. However, some internal cue causes me to take notice where I hadn’t before. Of course, there are also trees I always greet, favorites that I speak to and set out to visit intentionally. On some walks there are so many trees around, that if I visited each one, it would take me all day to complete the walk. As such, I learned to trust the prompt that comes when the tree stands out.

On my walk last weekend, I traversed new ground, beyond a regular hiking trail. I had heard new areas were opened to the public, so I wished to explore. Alas, a No Trespassing sign stood barring the way I wanted to go. Instead, I decided to follow the fence line up to an enticing grove of Live Oak Trees I could see from the main trail. Following a deer trail along the fence I soon found myself standing near the top of the hill. All the fresh green growth pushed up through the earth fattened by weeks of rain. Surrounded by the oaks with their iconic corkscrew branches, I found a fallen branch and sat for a while, taking in the trees and the misty view beyond. California in winter is always so full of dark moist loam, heather and a rich mix of greens. I saw Mt. Diablo off in the distance, cap barely visible, nearly hidden under fog.

As I sat there one of the oaks suddenly stood out. When this happens, its as if my eye is watching a film and the camera zooms in, focusing on the object the film maker wishes the viewer to notice, while the surrounding scenery fades to indistinct background. That was all the prompt I needed to get up and move towards her, hands out ready for contact. Her trunk was covered with deep green velvet. I tenderly ran my fingers over the mossy surface, reveling in the moist, furry, cool texture. The valley oaks cover themselves in coats of moss this time of year. In the summer, the same coat dries out and changes color and texture to become less appealing. The moss and lichen dressings on the trees fascinate me. Even more fascinating however, was the tree herself. Her shape was particularly magnificent in my estimation and I told her so as I stood there, palms placed firmly against her generous trunk.

“I know” she said. I smiled. Now let me explain how this communication occurs. It takes quite a bit of trust on my part, a trust I have built over the years since before I wrote my last book, The Inner Tree: Discovering the Roots of Your Intuition and Overcoming Barriers to Mastering It. Once upon a time I didn’t trust my knowing and I wasn’t quite as adept at noticing how I know things, but over the years both skills have grown. Now I have become a tree whisperer of sorts.

Let me explain how the communication occurs. It can be different with each tree I connect with, but there are two primary modes. Sometimes I place my hands and close my eyes and I see things with my inner eye. In this mode I am frequently shown scenes of the community of trees. I am also taken on a tour of the trunk, branches and into the upper canopy, as if I am a bee flying along above the surface of the bark. Very occasionally I see either dragon or tree gnome eyes opening to look back at me. This was how I discovered some trees are dragons. One time I was even taken on a journey through outer space.

Years ago, experimentally, I started placing my palms on trees, purposely avoiding making meaning out of my sensations and experience and just noticing what happened. Over time, more aware of the nuances, I began to trust the visions and their acuity grew. I am shown many things even if I can’t profess to know why I am shown what I am shown. Sometimes I wonder if the trees just wish me to know their community. With this last visit however, I am gifted a new understanding, although this message wasn’t visual.

My communication with trees comes through inner vision. More often, it comes through sense and feeling. After all, my primary mode of intuitive knowing is empathic – I so often feel what others feel and this is true with the trees as well. I get feelings. Feelings come via my palms and my gut. I have felt solidity, strength, joy, welcome and occasionally deterrence which shows up as a field of pressure pushing me away as I approach a tree. Some trees just don’t wish to be approached and I respect that. Most often what I feel with trees is an expansive sense of love. How they can still love us is beyond me after all we have done to their kind (but more on that in a moment).

I stood there with my hands on this magnificent tree and her answer, her “I know” came first through a feeling in my gut which translated into an “I know” in my inner dialogue. Zero arrogance came through that message. I felt her knowing as a steadfast certainty which we humans rarely possess. She knew herself to be what she was. Next, she gifted me with understanding how she knew. She showed me through felt sense an intrinsic knowing through the structure of her woody mass, and then shape is also understood through the experience of feeling water moving through her structure. In connection with her, I experienced these feelings in my body.

The next wave of knowing followed. I learned that her shape, although influenced by weather and conditions, was largely determined by her spirit embedded in the seed she grew from. She was destined for the magnificence of her shape.

And that still wasn’t the end of the conversation. The next transmission revealed a quality of being part of the community of trees. They can communicate with each other the knowingness of their shape. I learned trees know one another not only through the signals sent on the underground network of mycelium and the chemicals sent through the air, but through the transmission of the feeling of their shapes to each other. They are a community of individuals like us, but they haven’t lost their sense of connection to the greater whole like we have.

I commented on this to her after conveying some sorrow about the number of trees undone by oak rot and then I apologized for my kind and all the pain we have caused to her kind. She said “we have oak rot; you humans have heart-rot!” It is an undeniable truth I could not argue. I placed my forehead on her trunk and told her, “I honor you and I am grateful to know you. Thank you!” She impacted me profoundly. I made my way back down to the main trail, pondering deeply everything that just transpired. How did we become some divorced from our heritage as members of the community of life on this planet? Going deeper, I wondered how we ever stopped trusting ourselves the way this tree trusted herself? We are so divorced from ourselves, from our ability to know ourselves as a manifestation of spirit and Love that created us. This tree was filled with it.

I think I finally understand why I am treated to visions which include tours of trunk, branches and canopy. Trees are communicating to me like they do to their community, that I might know them through their shapes. It’s very intimate, this knowing and with it they are making me community too.

Somewhere we lost our trust, in our shape, our community and in what we are. I suspect a sense of separation began when cities and civilization took hold. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing, but separation serves those who wield fear to feed their power to dominate and control others. Their own fear drives the need to dominate and thus the cycle of trauma has expanded through the years to create a population of people who don’t “know” their own magnificence the simple way this tree lives it daily.

Perhaps this is another reason I am shown visions of the community of trees. Perhaps they are urging me, as a representative of my kind who is willing to listen, to understand who they are and share the wisdom they still hold which we have lost in our culture of convenience and disconnection.

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