Before I got to the birch tree, with its bark dangling in a branch, moving with the wind, there was the oak tree.
It split into three separate trunks about two feet from the ground. Each one shot out and up like fingers reaching for the sky. They went up forever, the autumn yellow leaves and branches started only when they cleared the forest canopy. I couldn’t resist the invitation to stand in the palm of the three fingers.
I leaned my body against the largest trunk first, my arms not long enough to go around the whole thing. The side of my head against the thick bark, I rested feeling a slight vibration in my feet. I felt like a lion, the pictures I’ve seen of them, their bodies draped over a high branch thick enough for them to fall asleep on. I always thought it was for safety, or maybe to get a good view for hunting. But as I rested on the tree, I felt the comfort of having my body leaning on another living body. That feeling of curling up with your lover, or when a child sits close enough to put your arm around them, or even the pressure of your dog or cat winding its body into a ball next to you as you sleep.
I know that trees are alive. I’ve felt their energy before and it’s not the first time I’ve hugged a tree. But it was the first time I understood their aliveness in this way.
Still leaning on the trunk, I turned my head to the left and saw the long scar reaching up as high as I could see. It ended in a hole at the base of the smallest of the three tree trunks. Lightening I said to it. You’ve been struck by lightning. It seemed to be healing well, the edges of the wound rounded and thick with bark. I place the hands flat on either side of the scar. It didn’t have the restful energy of its sister trunk. This tree wasn’t suffering it had become a conduit between the earth and sky. The energy still rushing through it. That’s what it felt like to me standing there, to my hands and my body.
I walked on after that, leaving the third trunk for my next visit. I think I was a bit overwhelmed. It was shortly after that I saw the birch tree. It’s peeling bark like a snake shedding her skin. Four long scratches that I can only imagine were made by a bear. And the piece of paper thin skin caught elegantly on a tiny branch, dancing with the wind.