The Listening Heaven

What is it about a tree that is so quietly magnificent?  Is it their graceful reach upward, their artistic shapes?  According to the wonderful poet, Rabindranath Tagore: “Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”

But Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”

Perhaps, that would apply to someone who is not spiritually awake yet … maybe he or she is still sleepwalking through life.  Or still largely “unconscious,” as Eckhart Tolle would describe a lack of “awakening” … a lack of spiritual presence or awareness.  Thich Nhat Hanh might say that via Buddhism we can go from the field of phenomena to the level of substance or true nature.  In that context, we are no longer caught up in conventional designations, but have the ability to be in touch with a “very deep level of reality.”

  • What do you think?

I’ve loved trees for as long as I can remember.  As a young girl, I spent a great deal of time in my grandmother’s yard, and I learned to identify all of her many trees: walnut, apple (3), cedar, crab apple, pine, red mulberry.  I witnessed her affection for them, and yes, it was contagious.

Anna cared for them with such abandon and joy.  It was impossible not to be drawn into her world of peace that nature provided for her each day.  I wish all children should be so fortunate.  To spend time around people of wisdom … people who are living on a deeper level … people who show a deep respect and love for nature.

  • What greater gift to leave the next generation?

You may be gone, but the tree lives on … offering comfort, shade, and memories.  Always stretching toward “the listening heaven.”  I marvel at people who can’t see the wonder of nature.

So today, Arbor Day, I’m asking everyone to write a few words about a tree they remember from childhood.  In a journal, on a note card, as a poem to share with someone.  Even as a comment below.  Share something on facebook or on twitter.  Make your voice heard.

Appreciation begins with remembering.  So let us remember how and when we began to love trees: their grace, their dignity, the solace they provide.

The wonderful poet laureate (2010), W.S. Merwin, has dedicated his life to environmental issues.  Merwin is one of the most honored and widely read poets in America.  He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his exceptional collection: The Shadow of Sirius.

According to a brochure published by the Poetry Foundation: “Merwin has written with sheer grace and limpid power about the natural world, time, and memory.”  He has spent the last 30 years planting 19 acres with more than 800 endangered species of palm, creating a sustainable forest that has recently been protected as the Merwin Conservancy.

Merwin was born in New York City in 1927, but has lived in Hawaii for more than thirty years.

  • So what will you write today, this week, about the role of trees in your life?

Maybe you will even plant a tree, water a tree, prune a tree, or fertilize one.  Or perhaps you will paint one, draw one, or meditate on a specific tree in your history.  Giving back to nature is never a waste of time or energy, but failing to acknowledge our human need for trees (even more so today with planetary concerns around global warming) is extremely shortsighted.

This tree is quite special to me because of where it is located.  It is framed, hangs in my office.  Magnificent, comes to mind.  And I’m sure the heavens are listening.

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