The Light Beyond the Leaves


Stripped of pretense and camouflage, trees, like human beings, are bare bones and spirit. They grow, stretch, ache, bend and break; they provide protection and comfort. Throughout our lives we remain fascinated by the aesthetic beauty of these dynamic sculptures of nature. We feel their spiritual energy. We sense their wisdom.

Trees seem to make their strongest appeals to the human spirit when the leaves have fallen away from their bones. Faces of bark and fiber that have been hidden all summer suddenly laugh out loud and bellow their lust for life. The spaces between the branches reveal their true spirit, reminding us that without spaces in our own lives we may miss the most important and poignant moments.

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Trees are great teachers of time and space. When we quiet ourselves enough to see and feel the spaces, we might also notice that trees can show us how to live, how to celebrate, how to age with dignity, and yes, even how to die — all with a sense of serenity, honor and place — if we let them. That is the essence of the HumaniTrees exercise.

I’d like you to meet some of my teachers:


Pompous — The forest’s politician has a lot of ideas and he’s not afraid to share them. Now, this could also be a baritone letting loose his woodsian opera titled, “This Beautiful Autumn Day Will Never Be Repeated.” Again, you see what you see when you see it.


Enlightened — Bending back, arms outstretched as if in celebration of a sudden and unexpected (aren’t they all?) epiphany, this forest dweller accepts the full warmth and light of the winter sun. There is a feeling of gratitude, well-being and overwhelming happiness in its presence.


Devoted — This sweet old couple has but a short time left in their present form, and they are spending it in celebration of their life and time here together. It is the ultimate Anniversary Waltz, perhaps their 50th, 75th or maybe 100th. It will endure forever in spirit, in the eternal now.

Intrepid — It stands on the ridge in fearless anticipation of another great day on the frontier outpost. There is nothing this adaptable creature has not seen and nothing it cannot survive.

Show Off — There’s one in every crowd.

Proud — Stout, weathered and facing the light, this tree makes its stand with all the pride of an eagle and the alertness of a hawk. As with so many venerable characters, we feel a comfortable assurance that something great is here, a higher consciousness present on a different plane, to be sensed but not accessed, for we are not equipped to understand. Like so many peoples and cultures before us, we are free to ignore it, acknowledge it, respect it, and worship it.



  1. It’s impossible to describe how I reveled in your images and descriptions; even your title! One thing I think you’ll appreciate: Our city recently had to remove an old, stately Elm growing on our neighbor’s boulevard due to Dutch Elm disease. She’s an artist, and she requested that they not remove the stump so she could do some carvings on it. Her wish was granted, and the stump is still there—taller than the best over-seven-foot dunk-shot player! There aren’t any tree cavities in it, so no chickadees and woodpeckers can make it their home. But what a creative alternative to prolong the glory of that tree, right? Namaste…


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