Ode to Joy

by Aimee Taylor

In his book The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben describes how trees close by to each other are interconnected, like a family, where, if one tree becomes sick, the others that surround her send her nutrients through their complicated root systems, even after she is dead. In some cases, turning her into a nurse tree, where another will grow, cradled by her body. Every tree, every root, every leaf and seed holds a purpose.

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I have spent the better part of my summer in the trees – inside these ancient civilizations of families, who take care of their sick and nurse their young, undiscerningly. We have a lot to learn.

These trees that surround us – older than us by decades, if not centuries – bring a wisdom with them. Their branches have withheld many a storm. Their limbs innately know how to grow around human-made obstacles like power lines. Their moss protects them from the cold. And each and every season, new buds will come, blossoming first into stunning flowers, and then leaves to protect us from the changing sun.

Each year, like a magical sunset, the leaves change, grow crisp, and make their final, downward descent into the world, dancing one last time. Whispering almost: I had a purpose. I have lived. I have made a difference. These leaves, although dead, are often not at the end of their use. Instead, they create warm beds for baby wildlife, or cover new plants to help them withstand the final, late blasts of winter. Their skin may erode, but their leaf skeletons – their imprint – can last forever, as if for each, we place them in the pages of books where great-great grandchildren can find them, and imagine their life cycles and the hands who held them.

My friend, I see you there, clinging on, high at the top of a tree in our forest about to dance to the ground. May you feel cared for. May you be at ease. May you always have a place here, your imprint strong within all of us. We will hold you close.

 We will remember you.

Aimee Taylor is a past retreat participant and member of Callanish’s Younger Adult Group. She is a writer, researcher, musician, mother and more.