When I look to the world as if all things are equal, I see many Peoples. Most are not Human People. When I say Tall Standing People I am speaking of the trees.
More than 30 different kinds of trees inhabit the 12 acres where I live. More than 40, if I include the Not-So-Tall Standing People or perhaps Branching People: the bushes and the shrubs.
I’m very grateful for the trees, I bring more than 30 of them into my medicine and art. The Tall Standing People invite me to work with their twigs, bark, buds, saps, resins, gums, nuts, fruits, leaves, wood, fragrances. Not with words. I’ll show you how it happens.
Linden grows over the driveway, soft branches covered with heart-shaped solar panels drooping until they almost touch the ground. Giant leaves fill the gaps on the Fire (South) side of the tree catching the Sun. When I taste the warming fragrant flowers, I’m shown that the Human People need to turn their hearts south and fill them with the fuel for compassion and joy, like filling the wood box by the hearth fire. When I clear the curtain of leaves and branches around the driveway, Linden gives and gives by sprouting more branches and shoots longing to be new trees. The branches are taken to my studio to be cured. The wood is oddly fragrant, like crushed ladybugs, soft and easy to carve. I look to folklore and find that Linden is a traditional wood for good luck charms. All this knowledge and experience from one tree.
Many of the Northern traditions revere the Tall Standing People. The stories tell of Trees of Life, Knowledge, Immortality, Enlightenment, and Love. Many Northern creation stories feature a Tree of Life. From the Nordic peoples we learn of Yggdrasil, a giant Ash tree. Ojibwe stories tell of Grandmother Cedar, Nookomis Giizhig. In Hebrew, there is Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life in Eden. In a Taoist story, the fruit of a certain peach tree imparts immortality, and in a Buddhist story, the Buddha finds enlightenment under the Bo or Bodhi tree.
As I look out the window across the snowy Beech grove in the back yard, I find a deep understanding welling up inside my own being. The Tall Standing People are the only Plant People I can see. It would be hard to find roots and tubers unless I planted them and even then they might elude me as I dig and dig, or they might be ruined by the cold. It’s impossible to find the medicine of the meadows, they have all retreated to tend to their roots during the cold and dark days of winter.
But the Tall Standing People offer bark, sap, resins, wood, and even some berries still cling to the Rowan by the lake, the crabapples downtown, and the Hawthorn in the front yard. The trees, symbols of Vitality and Survival, stand tall offering food, fuel, building materials, and medicine all year long.