For a brief time in the 1990s, I owned a cantilevered property on a hilltop in Modjeska Canyon, California, named for the Russian actress, Madame Modjeska. A haven of winding roads, this sequestered woodland wound its way eventually down to Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. Surrounded by trees and sky, wildlife and rolling hills, my home was a veritable tree house. A double-stone retaining wall provided a natural planter box. Medicinal herbs I had cultivated there were soon pillaged by a neighbor’s cat — just another manifestation of the wild, undisturbed character of my surroundings.
In this sacred setting, I first learned to communicate with plants and trees.
The 960 square-foot cabin sported panoramic windows, affording lovely views of trees and sloped land from every angle. The bedroom had one large window. The head of the bed was positioned against that window, behind which twisted and curled the ample limbs of a venerable oak tree.
One night, in that twilight between awakeness and dreaming, I found myself in a still, lucid dimension in between states of consciousness. What startled me was a sudden awareness that the branching oak tree I loved so much was now right over me in the room. I was thrilled and a little scared at the same time, as I recognized that the tree had somehow astrally projected through the window. Its energy was benevolent, protective and very present.
I kept the experience to myself. Most people hold fixed ideas, filtering the world through labels. They prefer that their environment be understandable, predictable. I could fairly well imagine the label they would have for me, had I disclosed that I’d been visited by a rather large tree. The encounter did not seem odd to me; I have never viewed life as hierarchic. I had been brought up with the “top of the food chain” idea, but that notion always bothered me. I felt a connection with all of creation.
Once I sat in the kitchen of my publisher’s home in Minnesota. As we were talking, the wind blew gently. Neighboring cottonwoods released into her backyard a soft shower of cotton, gently sailing and streaming through the air at a slant like large snowflakes. In the next moment, the trees were absolutely still. They emanated a kind of prehensiveness, a crystalline intensity. In response, I became acutely aware of the trees. This wordless exchange was their way of communicating. I gave in to it and experienced the different realm of plant consciousness.
Since everything is love and light — energy and information — it is not a stretch to accept the concept of communication with plants. One way to receive from plants and trees is to relax our aspect. It’s similar to the way we see pictures surface in 3-D in Magic Eye books. Each picture looks like a flat field — until you relax your gaze. Your focus becomes less intense, and the image begins to come toward you, into the foreground of your vision. It is only our resistance or arrogance that limits our ability to just let go and experience phenomena as they present themselves.
For plants and trees, presence is natural.
Recently, standing out on my balcony, I felt that the trees had a message to deliver. I was musing about how Minnesotans had become obsessed with the question of when spring would truly arrive. Somehow, I received a clear communication that spring was three weeks away, and I had the definite sense that this information emanated from the trees. In linear, human time, they were indicating the second week in April.
As I write this article, only the pussy willows have clearly articulated buds; the rest are insipient. Birds sing sporadically. Some days are hot while others carry a nip in the air. Still, I know from friends in the plant realm that they are bracing themselves, ready to release their green essence and floral aromatherapy into the natural tide of life.
All of our scientific predictions can neither control nor irrevocably vanquish what the trees and flowers already know and will generously share — if we will only gentle ourselves enough to listen.