Encountering a tree

February 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Spending much of my life alone in nature i have developed a way of thinking and relating to nature and would be curious how a philosopher would define this. It is more about the experience than representing it with words, but i’ll make the attempt regardless. It is an example that represents a larger way of interacting with the world.

When i encounter a tree, my longing is to connect. I allow the tree deep inside my experience and attempt to extend my experience outward to the tree. I look first at its features, its movement and play of light and color through its leaves. I look at it as though it were the only tree by perceiving there is none other just like it. Then I climb onto its branches and feel its strength against my back. I close my eyes and try to perceive the experience of a tree – its timelessness and quiet. I realize that just as my extremities are defined as me through being connected, then so can the tree become me through connection. I have some sense that just as it is my perception that defines the intention and meaning of my extremities, so perhaps my intention can in part define the tree. Perhaps it is because the tree cannot perceive its own experience that I must, and that is the very reason it is part of me.

Then I wonder how I might enter into the tree’s experience. Some suggest plants grow stronger when encountering a nurturing intent, and I hope that the tree grows stronger in my presence. Then I ask if every part of this experience has only to do with me and has no part of the tree in which case I am forever isolated from it and everything else, despite a fundamental longing to connect.

Here are some interesting thoughts from poets who were also deeply affected by trees. I realize it is used as metaphor poetically, but i feel this use of metaphor represents a deeper experience that i attempt to address here. That is why it’s not in the arts forum. The issue at hand is not these poems specifically, but the experience suggested by them described above.
 

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12 Comments

  1. grabber said,

    I wonder about the trees.
    Why do we wish to bear
    Forever the noise of these
    More than another noise
    So close to our dwelling place?

    We suffer them by the day
    Till we lose all measure of pace,
    And fixity in our joys,
    And acquire a listening air.

    They are that that talks of going
    But never gets away;
    And that talks no less for knowing,
    As it grows wiser and older,
    That now it means to stay.

    My feet tug at the floor
    And my head sways to my shoulder
    Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
    From the window or the door.

    I shall set forth for somewhere,
    I shall make the reckless choice
    Some day when they are in voice
    And tossing so as to scare
    The white clouds over them on.
    I shall have less to say,
    But I shall be gone.

  2. ingrid said,

    All other trees are harps in the winter.
    Their trunks are the frames, their branches the strings, the winds the musicians.

    When the air is cold and clear, the world very white,
    and the harp music swelling, then the talking trees tell the strengthening, uplifting things.

  3. postmodern beatnik said,

    If we just look at the tree without trying to attach anything above and beyond to it, we don’t need to get into some internal dialogue about what kind of tree it is, how we used to climb trees like that one, how these trees are going extinct to make bedroom furniture, etc. We just see the tree.

    At that point we can become more truly aware of the tree, and understand how it is not really that different from ourselves–it’s life is like our own, both in cycle and type. We become unseparated from the tree, having lost our ideas of subject and object, of “me and “not me.” And when we experience the space within and without as continuous, only then can we experience the tree as we experience ourselves, since there is no difference.
    The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grapsed, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten the words? He is the one I would like to talk to. –Chuang Tzu
    Quite frankly, I say you should hold on to your experience. Who cares about words?

  4. paalexan said,

    If you wanted more words, there are a few from the beginning of “Desert Solitaire” by Ed Abbey on this point, regarding a juniper. If I had them handy, I would add them here:

    But I don’t. A short paraphrasing from my own viewpoint would be: “Trees do not have ‘depth’; but their surfaces are deep.”

  5. paalexan said,

    Actually, I do have a portion of the words alluded to handy:

    “I’ve had this tree under surveillance ever since my arrival at Arches, hoping to learn something from it, to discover the significance in its form, to make a connection through its life with whatever falls beyond. Have failed. The essence of the juniper continues to elude me unless, as I presently suspect, its surface is also the essence.”

  6. 180proof said,

    soniarott wrote:
    When i encounter a tree, my longing is to connect. I allow the tree deep inside my experience and attempt to extend my experience outward to the tree. I look first at its features, its movement and play of light and color through its leaves. I look at it as though it were the only tree by perceiving there is none other just like it. Then I climb onto its branches and feel its strength against my back. I close my eyes and try to perceive the experience of a tree �” its timelessness and quiet. I realize that just as my extremities are defined as me through being connected, then so can the tree become me through connection. I have some sense that just as it is my perception that defines the intention and meaning of my extremities, so perhaps my intention can in part define the tree. Perhaps it is because the tree cannot perceive its own experience that I must, and that is the very reason it is part of me.

    Then I wonder how I might enter into the tree’s experience. Some suggest plants grow stronger when encountering a nurturing intent, and I hope that the tree grows stronger in my presence. Then I ask if every part of this experience has only to do with me and has no part of the tree in which case I am forever isolated from it and everything else, despite a fundamental longing to connect.

    Our roots are in deep sky and the tree’s are in dark earth, and so we grow towards each other without mutually taking root. A Need for Roots circling slowly round a mute urge to Uproot. Trees fascinate as stoic, throbbing mirages of what we might become. Their inward silence amid winter’s alchemy. I wonder if stones envy this dialectic …

    A gorgeous post, Petunia. Just what I needed this morning after a long chilly walk thru the Sonoran desert.

    Thanks.

  7. sharan said,

    I can look on (a tree) as a picture: stiff column in a shock of light, or splash of light, or splash of green shot with the delicate blue and silver of the background. I can perceive of it as a movement: flowing veins on clinging, pressing pith, suck of the roots, breathing of the leaves, ceaseless commerce with earth and air — and the obscure growth itself. I can classify it in a species and study it as a type in its structure and mode of life …

  8. martin said,

    I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is no longer it. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness. Nothing is lost. The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no value depending on my mood, but it is bodied over against me and has to do with me, as I with it — only in a different way.

  9. easy jackson said,

    I’m leaving for Sequoia in a few minutes. What a wonderful thread to read as I go.

  10. easy jackson said,

    Your lovely description of an encounter with a tree is a psychological rather than a philosophical experience. Mystical experiences of oneness with nature tend to be more common among people with dominate right hemispheres. It is probably a truer experience of reality than the subjective boundaries erected by the left hemisphere. Truer, of course, isn’t necessarily better if it compromises one’s adaptation to reality. Unfortunately, people who are the most and least in touch with reality tend to have the highest suicide rate, e.g., psychiatric patients and their psychiatrists! Please, I am not saying this is your experience. Many healthy and happy people have these mystical experiences at times.

    Philosophically we are all one if we accept a monistic ontology. If we accept the Jain’s interpretation of reincarnation, every living thing is a reincarnation of something else.
    Furthermore, if the block universe and multiverse theories of cosmology are correct, than variety of living creature we see are images of our other selves in the plurality of worlds.

  11. yffer said,

    who the hell encounters a tree?

  12. postmodern beatnik said,

    All those sufficiently aware.

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