The Memory of Trees

Posted by Sabina Pettitt on

Mother Tree

Ever since I met the Mother Tree around 2007, I have been enchanted by her majesty. I have taken many people to meet her, and young and old alike stop talking and appear awestruck by her beauty and accomplishment. She is a yellow cedar tree and is perhaps the oldest nursing tree on southern Vancouver Island. Her age is certainly at least 500 years, and some have suggested she is maybe even 800 years old or more! Just pause for a minute and attempt to grasp what was happening on Vancouver Island 500 – 800 years ago. Or expand your thinking to a global scale and remember what was happening on the planet 500 – 800 years ago. It’s incredible to think of the planetary timeline the Mother Tree holds in her experience.

When I feel sad or lonely, my dog Baba and I drive out to Renfrew and we walk around her perimeter and hug her close – still, after all these years, marvelling at her endurance and the life force which she generously shares with all the other plants, fungi and insects she is nurturing. Of course we were inspired to create an Essence with the Mother Tree. The resonance of this Essence, like the tree herself, is endurance – not in any sense of suffering or sacrifice, but rather living out your awesome full potential.

The Gifts of the Mother Tree

In 2014 we were invited to participate in international Flower Essence conference in Japan, hosted by Nature World. As part of this gathering of Essence creators, we were each asked to select one of the Essences out of our repertory. These Essences would be combined to create a global super-combination at the conference. I had just read the email request and walked over to the workspace where Michael was working to ask what Essence we should contribute. Before I even finished the sentence I heard Michael say, “The Mother Tree.” Although my own thoughts had been veering towards Sea Essences, because of my affinity to these beautiful beings and my thrill at birthing them into the vibrational medicine pharmacopoeia, I immediately knew that Michael was bang on and it was imperative that our contribution be the Mother Tree. 

Steve and Sabina

My dear friend Steve Johnson, founder of Alaskan Essences, was the Master of Ceremonies at the conference, and each of us went down into the centre of this huge auditorium with an image of the Essence we were contributing projected on a screen behind us. When I spoke about the Mother Tree Essence, I said something about her gifts being wisdom and love and nurturing. I explained how when we connect with her, we become fully present in the centre of our being even when it looks like ‘really bad stuff is happening out there.’ She also gifts us the possibility to fulfill our own life purpose and the ability to reconnect with the seed which contains our original intention for this lifetime. After I spoke people came up to me and told me that they could see this bright light around me.

The Future of the Mother Tree

Because the Mother Tree sits on private land, there has always been the possibility of something happening to her. One year when we were out at Renfrew for our Energy Medicine Retreat, we found a giant rope – maybe 50 feet long and 6-8 inches in diameter – wrapped around her trunk as if someone was going to try to pull her down. One of our students actually went down there with a knife early one morning to try to sever the rope. She was unsuccessful, but fortunately the next time we visited the rope was gone. In fact, I learned this week that it was vandals who were responsible for that desecration, and the owner and developer of that land removed the rope.

Mother Tree

Every time I go out to that area, my first stop is to visit the Mother Tree, to acknowledge her and to express gratitude for her existence. At each visit, I always wonder if this is the last time I will see her. (Perhaps this could be a good attitude to cultivate in all our relationships – being with someone as if it might be the last time we get to be with them. Just a thought!) Because of this uncertainty over the future of the Mother Tree, I was guided to approach the land owner/developer to ask if we could put a protective covenant on her to ensure her safety and eventually a natural demise.

Making this request brought to my mind memories of my father. He was a builder and developer back East, and I always remember the reverence and respect he gave to Nature.  When he bought land on which to build, he always first assessed what trees were on it and instructed the architects to design the structures around the existing landscape. And it appears that the owner of the land on which the Mother Tree lives has a similar consciousness about Nature.

I am thrilled to report that the Mother Tree will be preserved, along with 17 or 18 other large trees on his land which he invited me to visit.  His intention is to create a 15–20 foot radius around each of these trees, where there might be benches for people to sit and to just be with the tree. As we discussed my request and his plans for the future, I felt that I was communicating with a kindred spirit and a conscious being who knows the value of Nature.

The Wisdom of Trees

I realize now that I have had a long history with trees, from the apple tree I climbed in our back yard when I was ten years old, to the 60-foot Poplar outside our bedroom window in our first home in Victoria, to the amazing trees which surround me now on this precious piece of land I now call home. This land was 4.5 acres of clear cut when we arrived, with only two older trees left standing. Michael planted over 200 trees – Silver Birch, Oaks, Maples, Dogwoods, and Poplars. He planted White Chestnuts which began as 8-inch seedlings from the gutters of that first home in Victoria, and Garry Oaks which began as seedlings in 4 oz cups and are now 12–15 feet tall.

Garry Oak Tree

Michael always took visitors to the Garry Oak meadow, because even when the trees were only three feet tall it was still a startling memory to know they had begun their lives in a paper cup that was three inches tall. Moreover, these trees are absolutely a propos to the challenges we face in our world today, because Garry Oak Tree Essence helps us to use our resources wisely and focus on our own journey rather than wasting an iota of energy judging others or kvetching about the world. 

The Healing Energy of Tree Essences

It’s not surprising to me that when we were inspired to bring out a special kit of Tree Essences there turned out to be one for each meridian of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – one Essence for each of the 12 meridians. It was like a special gift to me because of the way we have approached our work/play with the Essences through the windows of TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine. Both traditions are based on free flow of energy in chakras and meridians, and on maintaining balance and harmony in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. It was as if the trees were confirming our intuitive knowing that they needed to emerge and had some new healing energies to contribute.

Tree Essences from Pacific Essences

The Memory of Trees

Let’s go back to our first house in Victoria and the 60-foot Poplar tree outside our bedroom window. One day the neighbours decided to cut down this tree, because they thought it might disturb the foundation of their home. It was devastating. A being who had accompanied us to bed every night, and was there when we awoke each morning, was gone. The sound of the wind in her leaves, the patterns she made on our walls and floors as the sunlight came in through our south facing window, her changing wardrobe with the changing seasons, gone forever within 20 minutes of a chainsaw ripping into her body. A living being that I took for granted was no longer there, and I missed her dearly. For the rest of the time we lived in that house I was sorely aware of her physical absence – and yet, her subtle energy remained ever present.

What I recently learned is that Nature has memory, and is able to pass on this memory to their offspring.

During their lifetime, trees are not only able to adapt quickly to new conditions but can even pass on the 'memory' of such environmental changes to the next generation. This amazing ability has been proved for the first time by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).

While this remarkable ability did not save the Poplar tree, perhaps it prepared future seedlings to find alternate spaces to grow. For sure this capacity is at work every day in our forests, and I suspect this is why people stop in their tracks when they have the privilege of meeting the Mother Tree. As Sir David Attenborough has proclaimed “Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.”

So again I express my gratitude to the developer who will include the Mother Tree in his future creation, and to the Mother Tree herself for our profound journey with her.

“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike.  And no two journeys along the same path are alike.”
Paulo Coelho

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