In The Company of Trees
For the past ten years I have journeyed each year to a young grove of Black Cottonwood trees to harvest their medicinal buds. An unexpected bonanza harvest last year made this year’s visit unnecessary. Such bounty is good, for harvesting is labor intensive and cold on the hands and feet. But as I moved through the days, I found myself missing the Cottonwoods I have come to know.
Just like people, there is more to trees than meets the eye. When first drawn to working with plant life I did the usual botanical research. For instance, Black Cottonwood live 200 years or more, preferring moist areas and full sun. This tall, straight tree can reach a stunning 50 meters at maturity. The sticky buds are fragrant and both the heart shaped leaf and cottony seeds emerge from the same bud, which also has medicinal properties. It never ceases to amaze me how so much can come from one little sticky bit of tree! But it is the spirit of these trees that truly moves me. They mirror my authentic nature and, as a result of knowing them, I know myself better. I have learned from trees that, like us, they have a divine purpose in being here. The difference between us is that they consciously live and breathe this purpose every moment.
Just like a human, it takes time to know a tree, something I realized through spending 10 years connecting with the same grove. Trees have personalities, relationships with each other and with us, if we desire. They are affected by everything around them including our thoughts. One year I found the Cottonwoods clearly upset. Looking about, I discovered a backhoe had recently made large sampling pits, carelessly damaging trees. When I asked, “how can I help?” a particular song clearly came to mind.