How Talking To A Tree Can Open You Up To Your Wise Self

Do you remember in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, when Dorothy is skipping along on the yellow brick road – until she has to make the decision whether to go left or right? Out of the blue, the tree behind her chimes in with his thoughts.

Bark of Ficus Tree

‘It’s a funny moment in a movie filled with fantasy’, you probably think.

Well, what if I told you trees really do talk?

Don’t believe me? I know – it may sound a bit crazy. Humor me for a moment.

Think back to when you were a kid. Did you have a favorite tree?

What did it look like? Do you remember how you felt when you saw, touched, or ran around it?

When I was 8 years old, my family moved from Dallas to Rochester, New York. The first thing I noticed as my Dad pulled the car into the driveway of our new home was a humongous willow tree. It was the king of the front yard – majestic and powerful.

Before long, I spent a lot of time under it – reading, playing, and sometimes just sitting in silence. It was my friend – there for me when I felt misunderstood, needed a good cry, or just wanted to get away from the noise. When it rained, I would sit under the canopy of my willow, nestled up against its trunk – immersed in the magnificence of nature.

Are you with me so far? Were you able to leap into your memory and retrieve your special tree from childhood?

If not, don’t worry.

TRY THIS EXERCISE

Go outside and find a beautiful or ordinary tree. Stand close to it – face to face.

Then ask it a question. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be an everyday one – like, ‘How am I going to finish my work and be home early enough to do homework with the kids?’

Give your question to the tree.

Look at the details on the tree. See how its bark swirls around, the motif that it creates. The years of experience and wisdom it has accrued.

The patterns you see in the trees, those same patterns are in your mind.

If you ask your question with intent, the tree will begin to answer you.

Be still and listen to what it’s telling you.

The tree will guide you to the wisdom and guidance that comes from all of nature – whether it be a river, tree, stone, or fallen leaves. Nature will help you open up new pathways, to see things differently, and tap into your wise self.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Share any meaningful experiences you’ve had with a tree or this exercise.

** A thank you goes to Jean Houston from whom I learned this.

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About Fran

Fran’s book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

In addition to being a recognized garden expert and deep ecologist, Fran is also a broadcaster, journalist, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Soul Tender. All of her work is based on her deep belief that our need to connect to the earth is an inherent trait – and that by doing so, we heal and experience more joy in our lives.

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28 Responses to How Talking To A Tree Can Open You Up To Your Wise Self

  1. Cathy Taughinbaugh | Treatment Talk October 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi Fran,

    I love this. Trees can bring us back to our true selves. Not sure I’ve had a favorite tree, except for the avocado tree we had in our backyard growing up. I’ve always loved the idea of a tree house, and being up and part of the tree’s branches. We have five redwoods that we planted several years ago and I love how they are a significant part of our backyard now. Thanks for an interesting post!

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Cathy-
      Tree houses were a dream of mine when I was a child. When I last went to visit Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia’s Delaware Valley and saw the new tree houses that were built on an expansive piece of land- OMG- Kathy, I could have moved into any one of them – no joke….they were beyond words.

      I don’t know what type of redwoods you have in your backyard. But I had one in my garden in Philly and when the needles turned orange in the fall, I would walk stand and just gaze at it. Nature is magical. Fran

  2. Vidya Sury October 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Fran – I love trees – all sorts. I have a name for each tree I pass on our road, which stretches three kilometers. :D I love photographing trees and have quite a collection of pictures – as you must have seen on my blog from time to time.

    I do believe trees can talk – and the feeling is wonderfully soothing. As a child I used to believe that when a leaf fell on my head, I was being blessed. :-) And of course, I’ve pressed most of the leaves in various books.

    Thank you! Love, Vidya

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

      Oh Vidya – How magnificent as a child that you felt a leaf was a blessing you when it fell on your head. I have never heard anyone say that before. And names for each tree you pass? I can imagine you on your scooter giving a quick mental hello to each of them. Yes, I have seen your photographs of trees….they are lovely. Pressing leaves in books- of course. As I am writing this comment, I’m looking at a scattering of leaves on the table in front of me that is my personal altar. I have brought them 6000 miles with me….from Philadelphia to Israel ….they are now brown and curled- which is a reminder of the cycles of life. xxoo-Fran

  3. Elle,Motivational blogger October 9, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Love this Fran – as a resident tree hugger I can totally relate. I’ve never tried talking to trees before but I’m going to give it a whirl.

    I’m reminded of Joyce Kilmer “I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree”
    It’s always resonated with me.

    Thanks for this Fran…I feel happy having read it.

    Love Elle
    xoxo

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      Elle – Thanks for the quote – I love it.
      I would guess that you actually might have talked with a tree – just not in ‘human language’.
      I remember the first time that I heard Prince Charles talked with his plants – I thought he was a wack job. Ha- the joke was on me. I still talk with plants from my last garden – I visualize them and then send my thoughts their way. Often I end up in tears …and whisper a ‘thank you’ to them. xxoo-Fran

  4. LIZA AND JOHN'S GARDEN October 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    HI Fran: I love trees they all have a personality of their own. Trying to remember my childhood “gosh that was a long time ago” An apple tree was my favorite, I used to climb it and has a special branch that I use to sit on.. Apples where good also.

    Have a wonderful day,
    John

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      John – Sitting on the branch of an apple tree sounds good to me! When I was a child, we would take a ride an hour away – I think near Penn Yan, New York – and pick the most delicious, juicy apples I ever remember eating. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Fran

  5. Aileen | Kaizen Vision October 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    I loved reading this Fran. Over the years, at different places I’ve lived, I often had a special tree. Right now there’s one outside my window and I love watching the leaves dance in the wind. It reminds me to let go and let life be what it is, – release resistance.
    :)

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Aileen-
      You’re a woman after my own heart. One of my favorite things to do is watching leaves dancing in the wind – especially autumn ones. Thanks for your thoughts. Fran

  6. Janet October 10, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    my favorite childhood tree was the magnolia tree in my parent’s (childhood) backyard with three separate trunks jutting out in different directions. If you can imagine it fanning from the left, straight up and to the right… I say trunks and not branches because all three started at the ground level! with just enough platform (about 6″) on the ground for me to step on and climb up… i truly treated it like my jungle gym and it was the funnest tree to climb!! i would swing from one branch to the next and jump down. i would climb up and read books.. it was a great time. and such a unique, beautiful tree! i have never talked to it though… i wonder what it would say or if it would remember me (i’m visiting again next month for the first time in almost 3 yrs). i’ll have to find a tree to try to talk to… have never done that. but i’m enough of a hippie and my favorite movie when i was a kid was fern gully.. to i’m open to nature’s magic.

    • Fran Sorin October 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      Janet-
      Thanks so much for sharing the magical relationship you had with your magnolia tree. I don’t know…..it sounds as if you were ‘talking with it’….just not with words. How lucky you were to have it in your life.

      You brought a big smile to my face with your story-as well as your description of yourself as ‘enough of a hippie’.

  7. Tess The Bold Life October 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I love trees! I’m going to try this with one of my palm trees in the back yard. I do have a question I need an answer too. xo

  8. Paige | simple mindfulness October 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    I grew up in a small house in suburbia with very little yard. Despite this, we had a giant willow tree right in the middle of our back yard, a lot like Janet’s magnolia, with three trunks coming out of the ground. It consumed our entire back yard and I loved it. I loved the shade that it provided (this was in New Orleans where any break from the heat was a blessing). Living in suburbia, it was my connection to nature.

    Unfortunately, my father got tired of cleaning all the leaves it produced out of the gutters which were also a breeding ground for the giant cockroaches infamous in that area. So he cut the whole thing down. I remember what a void it left, not only in our yard, but in me. Everything seemed so barren after that.

    I now live in the woods in Colorado. Even though we’re surrounded by trees, there’s one, huge, very special tree right behind our house. We call it the tree of wisdom.

    Fortunately, I married a “tree hugger” who tells me stories of how he hugged trees as a kid (and still does) because he can feel their souls. His trees were his escape from a very rigid and conventional family life.

    When I’ve spent too much time at my computer, I love walking outside and just being in the trees. They’re so comforting. And, yes, they can answer questions for us.

    Fran – Thank you so much for reminding me of the deep beauty, wisdom and souls that live all around us!

  9. Galen Pearl October 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    There are two trees (in a forest of trees!) up at my cabin that are special to me. I often pause when I walk past them and put my hands on them. I sometimes ask for a blessing. Sometimes I just say thank you.

    You mentioned the tree in The Wizard of Oz. There is also a wise tree in the animated movie Pocahontas who sings a song about listening with your heart.

  10. Betsy / Zen Mama October 16, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I love your tree exercise! I’m going to try it!! There were several special trees in our life growing up. One was a willow tree that a heavy wind eventually brought down. So sad! Another was an incredible Elm tree that kept our house cool all winter. It died of Dutch Elm disease just before my parents moved. It actually made the move easier because everyone missed the tree.

    My favorite tree quote: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” (Greek Proverb)

    • Fran Sorin October 17, 2012 at 3:41 am #

      Betsy – your story of both tree dying is a reminder that all of us ….whether mammals, vegetations, and even non-living things are part of the cycle of nature.
      Love the quote- it’s actually one that I could hear Thomas Jefferson saying.

  11. Shuba February 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    Nice reading Fran.

    I come from the part of the world – foothills of Himalayas – where some 30 years back, in a village, a group of women (led by Gaura Devi) hugged trees to save them from the officials who had come to cut them down.

    I always felt some kind of association with trees……i am going to explore it more now.

    Thank you.

    • Fran February 21, 2013 at 4:02 am #

      Shuba – Thanks for that information. Am going to google Gaura Devl. I’m sure that if we could have an emotional barometer to see what the tree felt when we hugged it, we would find that they do indeed have feelings. The Western world underestimates the power of nature. Those of us who don’t, need to pass on the good news. Fran

  12. jii June 25, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    today i spoke to one tree it was awesome experience ……..

    • Fran July 9, 2013 at 3:32 am #

      Jill – how wonderful that you found it to be a positive experience!

  13. carole July 7, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    my tree friends are my true friends and all have names and are very loving and kind and they are so pleased when someone talks to them .

    • Fran July 9, 2013 at 3:27 am #

      Carole- how wonderful that you’ve given your trees name. And yes, they are loving and kind – thanks for sharing your thoughts. Fran

  14. Luther November 14, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. As a young child my parents lived mid block, while my grandparents lived on the end of the same block. It was a quiet, tree lined street. I remember as a child earnestly believing each tree had its own specific personality. two trees along the route were “mean.” I vividly remember running past these two trees to get away from them, but would then linger happily around the “nice” trees. I remember asking them how their day had been, and how they were feeling. I would have been around kindergarten age, so probably 5 years old or so…

    I am now 46 and haven’t had that specific memory in decades. Thanks Fran.

    • Fran November 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      Luther -
      Thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us. How lucky you are that you implicitly understood and responded to trees. It’s interesting – I have never heard anyone describe trees having a personality – most gardeners will refer to their characteristics – nothing more. You certainly have given me some beautiful thoughts as I head into my weekend. With gratitude – Fran

  15. MaryAnn January 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    I woke up this morning with the words “talk to the trees” in my head. I too, spent most of my childhood in the woods to escape the chaos of home. I would lean into the trees and receive solace and protection. To me, the blessing of having a tree that I could sit in was the most soothing of all. (A Thanks to the Mimosa of my childhood home.) On reflection, I believe my trees calmed me so I could access their wisdom and strength. Several years ago, when I was in my mid 50′s, I retreated to a small vacation town during some chaos in my life. The small beautiful cemetery in the center of town had a magnificent low slung oak that I would climb every morning. I would sit there until I had the answers I needed. I am sure some thought me odd, but I am so grateful to have had that tree’s embrace. Thank you to all my tree companions and to you for reminding me that love is everywhere.

    • Fran January 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Mary Ann – Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful memories. Yes indeed – Trees have the power to guide, nurture, and feed our souls. We just need to listen to their wisdom. With gratitude – Fran

  16. Posey Gilbert March 2, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    A true story about my encounter with a tree.

    The Tree

    http://theedgeofreality.proboards.com/thread/4512/tree

    Thank you for your time.

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