by D. Thomas
“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” [EZEKIEL 47:12]
High summer: the heyday of the first fruits and berries has passed, and we are in the time of afternoon: the season of insect chirping, of growth happening out of notice, deer lying down; of waiting. The leaves and later fruits and the grains are fattening, and here it is green and green and lush and humid. I am lucky here in this niche of Pennsylvania, luckier than most, with no floods this summer, no wildfires– although we have been breathing the “haze” from the blazes ravaging so much of the west. My mind has been quiet– and it means I have peace that I have not been freaking out or despairing, that it has not felt like desolation and tumbleweed in the desert, that I do not feel like bleached bone in the sand. I have been working, instead, with hands, yes, and brushes and mops, and with my legs and my back.
High summer– Mission weeks and works, if one is so inclined; vacations, if one can. Summer, we sense, will be leaving, the seasons and skies will turn.
I have been wanting to write about Trees for Healing since I wrote the last entry about wells of water– and the fires, before that, for: there is always so much more. When I read, when I walk, when I look up at treetops, branches and leaves against sky, at the fireflies within arm’s reach, deer with new antlers, and look down at flowering weeds, growing plants, and running water over rocks, I have wanted to speak of, but have not had words. I did see– which annoyed it I think– a groundhog (Biblical rock badger-?) coming out from amid flat big rocks to the water, beside one under-street culvert, and in a friend’s yard by the little woods I saw and touched a little brown frog one morning, and a little toad that afternoon.
There are more gnats and mosquitoes than luna moths or dragonflies; deer ticks follow deer; and there is poison hemlock as well as Queen Anne’s Lace,(in addition to poisons oak and ivy). And, sometimes, copperheads amid the garter snakes and ground frogs.
The Thunder Moon was two weeks ago– and indeed we were having thunderstorms every day, deluges, brief downpours, light rains, wild winds, and intense heat. Mushrooms and strange fungi have sprung up everywhere, plentifully in lawns along root systems, at the bases and on the trunks of trees. Outlandish looking, yet of the very land and life here and wherever plants grow: Mycorrhizal fungi live in symbiosis with most plants and trees. The mushrooms and toadstools grow up through the soil to the surface and collect nutrients which they carry to the tree roots. Trees communicate through the networks of roots and fungi, even with trees of other species: ecologist Suzanne Simard (Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest) notes how they share information about damaging insects, for example, so they might produce defenses, and they share nutrients with other trees which humans thought to be competing for sunlight: the trees live together and cooperate for the health of the forest. The old Mother Tree feeds water and carbon to the seedlings to help them grow.
Throughout human history we have relied on trees and plants for our shelters, clothes ,musical instruments and dolls, tools, our food, our medicines; wine to make us glad and oil to moisturize our faces. Herbs of all kinds for helping with fertility and easing birth, to abortions and anointing the dead; stimulants and relaxants and hallucinogens, vitamins, fever-reducers, pain blockers, sterilizers, purges…And now, in that inclusive America that does not out and out swim witches, Ayurvedic medicine, herbal medicine, holistic medicine, has re-emerged. (When the “MMJ” dispensaries have Rewards points, I have to “get political”: legalize it, release the prisoners, expunge records, change lives and change the world. Change the country– which is exactly what White Supremacists dread; Fascism says, “We want to keep you incarcerated because it serves us well.”)
There are sacred trees in most if not all religions, and often and often they impart Words and Wisdom– .
The Bhagavad Gita says of the ancient and giant fig tree Ashvattha “the everlasting,
“Rooted in heaven, Its branches earthward; each of its leaves is a song of the Vedas, and he who knows it knows all the Vedas.” [XV. 1]
In the Hebrew stories, the Tabernacle or movable Temple of Exodus, and the poles for carrying the gold-plated Ark of the Covenant and the Ark itself were made of wood, possibly acacia wood, sacred to many Greek, Roman, Mediterranean goddesses, and the poles which hold Torah scrolls are of wood, and the scrolls are of parchment or animal skins and this is very like Christ or Odin or Osiris hung on a tree for bringing written Words, Wisdom, and Fire to humankind. The seven-branched Menorah is a tree of Lights or Light– as is the Cross of Christ, the Light of the World.
The water of life feeds the Tree of Life which was that left in Eden and identified with Christ, and is in many, most, mythologies– the mother tree, the golden bough, again. The druids knew the medicinal benefits of trees and harnessed their powers and named seven of them especially sacred; there is a Celtic Tree Alphabet with letters named for trees (A–fir or pine; E–aspen; I–yew; O–gorse; U– heather; M is vine, and apple is Q.); there is the older Ogham script, which is of vertical lines crossed with certain numbers of lines slanting up or down, which remind me of the hexagrams of the I Ching, or Book of Changes, with arrangement of solid (Yang) and broken (Yin) lines, made by throwing three coins or, originally, yarrow stalks. Odin hung himself upon the Tree of Life Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to learn about the other worlds and to understand the Runes.
One of the several Runes I remember is the symbol for the Yew Tree, meaning protection (upside down it is the peace symbol)
The Yew is sacred in several traditions, and the Pacific Yew’s bark produces the chemical from which is derived paclitaxel, the chemotherapy drug for treating breast, lung, and ovarian cancer.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse” [REV. 22: 1-3].
It is my thought that, perhaps, the eating of the “apple” (Q–for “question”?) and subsequent Fall was– not of evil, not against Omniscient Omnipotent God’s plan, but the Eve and Adam and Serpent story–(“eat any fruit at all except that, don’t eat that--” seems a set-up) is a myth of human evolution or education: when the humanoid species were developed enough– after whatever ages and generations of waiting and abiding and intermixing, the “breath”, the Spirit, quickened the species to the next, new, revelatory level of intellect– and it was not good for this human to be alone; the helper possibly was the Serpent, and the knowledge seeking was and is in each one of us necessary for individuation: becoming wholly ourselves, mature and reasoning and self-controlling, and aware of, assimilating, all the Shadow side, all the forces, passions, emotions, memories, germs and dreams of our unconsciousness, our devils and demons and our better angels, our inner needy child and bossy know-it-all, our wise women, old kings, princes, tricksters, wise men, muses and Graces and pantheons of gods and beasts, our innerscapes of mountains, plateaus, caves, swamps, sloughs, gardens and deserts, and places within where we remember the comforting, feeding arms of the Mother.
This “Mother,” womb and grave, all nutrition and decomposition, this World Tree, Life Tree, Mother Earth or Mother Nature, A.T. Mann suggests (The Sacred Language of Trees), was carried along with all the Jewish and Christian myths, histories, tales, in the artifacts and symbols, and in the Shadow-y reversions to idolatries which are themselves corruptions of worship– I don’t know that the feminine energy or aspect or Yin was ever supposed to be written or driven out: after all, from Genesis to Revelation, off the top of my head: the Serpent talked to Eve; Sarah was blessed to be a blessing to all; Moses’ mother and Pharaoh’s Daughter saved him for the Exodus and the Law; Solomon referred to wisdom as feminine Sophia; prophetess Huldah identified and interpreted the Holy Scripture, long lost and found (2 KINGS and 2 Chronicles); Mary was chosen to bear Jesus, and Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Christ, risen; Timothy owed his learning and belief to his mother and grandmother according to Paul; and, in heaven, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is with the Bride, the Church or the restored World.
God is Spirit, not male or female. Humans were created in Their image, male and female. We are nature, we are of the earth, we cannot live without the humus of which we’re made, the microbes we share our space and existence with, without mitochondria, without algae, without trees. We cannot be born without mothers. Jesus and even Paul tried to say that in Christ there is no male and female– no social order of one above the other, one more important, one subservient. No slave or free– no “higher” or “lower” or better, and, to followers of the Way (of Jesus)– no Jew or Gentile any more.
This World Tree, Life Tree, reaches up to heaven and down into the underworld, to highest consciousness and to deepest unconscious where we meet, where all are one, we dream of the same monsters and saviors and cities and rainbows and lights in their many guises.
We humans with these minds are designed to learn– to study, to take apart, examine, learn, build, make things from materials at hand– temples and statues, paintings, symphonies, plays, spaceships. We all leave the womb, that dark water, formlessness, brooded over by the Great Mother and each mother, born in convulsion into great light, murky eyes and nose and airways clearing, sensing soon individual lights and faces, discovering up and down and front and arms and our own feet, our own edges– an infant’s birth and coming into awareness is very like Genesis 1, is it not? We must all be expelled from the womb, or we will die, the mother will die. We must grow up out of infancy to some self-determination, and there are struggles and dangers, the world is no Eden… Experience runs us up against pleasure and pain, cooperation and contest, sickness and health, fear and courage, love and hate, all opposites and all ambiguities between.
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man” Jesus said [JOHN 3:13]. The New Earth and New Jerusalem, or, rather, in Ezekiel 48:35, the City named The LORD is There described in the Books of Ezekiel and Revelation have these trees for food and for healing, which means there is hunger and potential sickness or injury or poison, this new world is not “purely spiritual”– and here I want to be very clear that I mean in these visions recorded in these Books of the Bible, strictly; I offer a level of interpretation. and I hold that Christ and “The Kingdom of God” is an eternal, spiritual existence, and “eternal life” is, too.
And so: we are in a biological realm, somehow still, in these visions. The Kingdom of God as it can be here, as it can be among us, brought by those of us who can see it. The wars, Gog and Magog, the plagues, the poisons and fires and meteors and fighter planes of Armageddon– all the horrors might be human-made, and the third only may survive– but the new reign, the heaven-on-earth time of Peace, the King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Christ reigning– might be here? Christ Jesus, the Light of the world is also the Water of Life and the Tree of Life, and the Tree He was hung upon represents Him: we speak and sing of coming “to the Cross”, worship “at the foot of the Cross,” and He identified His body and blood with the grain of the earth that makes bread and the fruit of the earth which makes wine, He bids us eat and drink him, and every day we eat Mother Earth, which They made and declared Good: Incarnation reminds us that we need this Incarnated God to live at all, to sustain life on all levels, here in our present realm. We humans might make our way through the knowledge of Good and Evil and accept the Grace and healing offered, and wash in the water, drink the tea made from the leaves, live in love and peace–
We can, we can, we can. We could if we would. With generosity– of goods and services, of food and clothing, of sheltering and love. With help. The help of the Spirit, God within. And I know this will be saccharine to those who do not believe.
Seeds, according to geobiologist Hope Jahren in Lab Girl, are curled green embryos contained within the husk or hard nut, waiting for a crack, a weakening, to unfurl and become a green shoot, ready to grow into an oak or alder or yew or Easter lily. The seeds wait– as Jahren says, only they know what for– and some can wait for hundreds of years.
A lotus grew from a husk found in a peat bog in China where it had been waiting for two thousand years.
This makes me weep for joy.
And plant seeds:
” The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life” [REVELATION 22:17].