I love it when my schedule allows me to retreat for the day. Recently such an opportunity arose and I found myself hanging out in one of my favourite green spaces in London, Kew Gardens. After treating myself to a delicious lunch I set myself down without much thought under the canopy of an enormous cedar tree.
Over the last 20 or so years I’ve developed a fascination for the stories, myths and legends about the trees which surround us. So maybe it was not coincidence but more of an intuitive urge that drove me to sit and rest for a while under this particular tree. The last few months had been really busy and I was feeling emotionally and physically spent.
The Cedrus Atlantica towering above me is regarded in Greek mythology as home to the god of wisdom. Energetically the tree is associated with grounding and helping one to become rooted, the very quality I was in desperate need of.
Trees are monuments
Through research I have learnt so much about the way in which trees are not just botanical specimens, necessary for the survival of the human race, but are also some of our oldest living monuments as well as beautifiers of our environments. Just imagine for a moment a street without trees and you have a landscape that feels as if something significant is missing.
I grew up in West Norwood, a suburb of London that was once covered by the great North Wood, a natural oak forest. The most common association with the oak, one of the oldest and longest living trees, is the quality of ‘strength’. This is the tree whose trunk my back longs to lean against when I need to be replenished or connect with my own source of courage. Because of the deep roots of the oak it is said to offer support. During one particularly turbulent time in my life I sought out the daily company of a huge evergreen oak tree in my local park. Her presence eased my pain and grief and watched over me as I nursed myself back to strength.
Most people will be familiar with the image of an overhanging willow tree. Its hanging, string-like branches are strongly associated with water and the flow of your emotions. Many willow trees live on riverbanks and by water, hence the connection with tears and deep emotions. The willow is considered the poet's muse because of the whisper-like sound of its over-hanging leaves in the breeze.
Willow's natural benefits
Willow branches have a long cultural tradition of being used in funerals. Branches are placed in coffins and young plants planted on graves. Across cultural traditions in Western Europe the willow is regarded as a sacred tree. She is aligned with the moon and the tidal cycles. In North Western Europe the willow was relied on by wise women and healers for it’s medicinal ability to ease rheumatism. The willow tree is also considered to be nature's alternative to aspirin.
I experience the company of trees as soothing and calming. I am comforted by the very existence of trees. Some of my all time favourite books are Tree Wisdom and A Tree In Your Pocket by Jacqueline Memory Paterson. Some more books I’d recommend if you want to learn more about the energetic characteristics of trees and how to be more closely connected with the trees in your neighbourhood are:
- Bark: An Intimate Look at the World's Trees by Cedric Pollet
- Trees: The Balance of Life, the Beauty of Nature by Pierre Lieutaghi
- The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter (Penguin Press Science) by Colin Tudge
- The Wisdom of Trees: A Miscellany by Max Adams