Friday, April 1, 2022

Why Trees

A fellow music teacher retiree is cleaning out her filing cabinets and sent me an old program she found. It was the notes to the 1993 Holiday Shows I put on with partners-in-delight Sue Walton and James Harding, titled In Celebration of Trees.  Five stories, mostly folk tales or myths, one for each grade between 1stand 5th. One from Japan, one from New Zealand, one from ancient Egypt, one from the West Indies and the overarching story from a book called The Solstice Evergreen, looking at the origins behind the Christmas tree. 


In yesterday’s blog post, I referenced a trip to Muir Woods in the company of the majestic redwoods and praised the power of being in the company of trees. So it was interesting to read my thoughts on the subject from 29 years ago. Predictably, not much has changed in the way I think and the way the world thinks and the large gap between them. Here’s an excerpt from those notes, written for the parents attending the program:


Why trees. Each day at carpool, I notice the children climbing the arroyo willow tree by the back gate. They intuitively understand the power of trees, the joy of climbing and getting a different view of the world. I think of Theodore Roszak’s book The Voice of the Earth, where he takes modern therapy to task for dealing solely within the context of “ the private life of the patient treated as the self-contained story of an autonomous individual.” He asks for an ecopsychology perspective which “holds that there is a synergistic interplay between planetary and personal well- being,” suggesting that climbing trees may be as relevant to our healing as analyzing our dysfunctional family relationships. 


Driving to and from the theater, I listen to the ads on the radio about interactive TV, as gleeful participants express the thrill they get from getting a response from a machine. I think of the Native American who talked about how his great grandfather could feel the tree-thought of his fellow rooted- and- branched companions and I feel the great distance between these two worlds. We spend so much effort attempting to re-create natural processes artificially that we often forget the beauty of Creation. We are amused, but we are not connected. Roszak’s question asks itself again: “Where do we turn to find a standard of sanity that comprehends our environmental condition?” 


In a brief flight of fantasy, I imagine the energy spent convincing consumers to buy the next electronic gizmo turning to planting trees. The time spent interacting with machines turned to walking amongst trees. I imagine the old images of dancers circling around a tree coming to life in regular community events. How simple a step towards our collective sanity. To turn down the volume and listen to what is to be heard, to pause in our dizzying motion and feel our roots sink into the moist earth. To finally heed Thoreau’s advice:


“Methinks we might elevate ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least.”


Enjoy the show!

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