I am on good speaking terms with quite a few of the trees and plants in this garden by now. But dearest to my heart is the apple tree behind the house. She is a grandmother guardian of this place, a beautiful old tree who still produces masses of apples.
When I first made contact with the spirits of this place, the apple tree was one of the beings who made herself felt. She is easily the most impressive fruit tree at Westacre, which was once an orchard. The first impression I got from her was rather distant, and noticeably fay.
That's not a word I easily use. The fairly realms are a mystery to me. But this tree has definite magic about it and seems to know a few secrets about the hidden life of this place. It took me a while to get to trust her.
But as our relationship progressed, it became clear that the grandmother apple tree is very willing to support me in my Westacre adventures. Often, she is the centre point of my rituals or the guardian of my meditations.
When I made a commitment to work with Westacre for the good of all beings, the old apple tree was the centre of my rite, with a web of light radiating from her in all directions. She asked me to share her fruit with as many people as possible when the time is ripe.
Lately, I have been attempting to heal my lack of trust in the world. I have been guided to find a home in my still centre. The hollow apple tree has showed me the way. She has also wrapped me in her protective aura, allowing me to relax more fully into the present moment.
We're becoming fast friends, the apple tree and I. And I believe these kinds of relationships are essential if we are to strengthen our connection with the living world around us.
If you already regularly talk to trees, animals and flowers, you're on the right track. Just keep doing it and see what wisdom you can gain. However, if you've never struck up a friendship with an other-than-human being, try this exercise.
How to strike up a conversation
Go outside. It doesn't matter if you are in a city. Just keep your senses and your heart open.
Just allow yourself to wander. Listen with your whole being. Something will call to you.
When you have identified the other-than-human being you are going to strike up a conversation with, don't just rush in. Take your time. Feel how far the presence of that being reaches out. Trees can have quite a large presence. If you are listening, you can often feel their edge quite some distance from the rim of their canopy. The wind, of course, reaches just about anywhere. But even a flower can radiate its presence a surprising distance from its petalled heart.
Ask permission to enter into communication with your new friend. With your senses and heart open, gently feel your way. If this being seems unwelcoming, leave it alone and try again another time.
If you sense a welcome, just stay with this person for a while. They may not be human, but they have a lot to teach us about how to be in the world.
The main secret about these conversations is that they are 90% listening on our part. Just sit and listen, with all of who you are. Stones and trees can be slow to speak. And the language of the rain is alien to our ears. Take time to learn the rhythms of your new friend.
When you are ready to leave, give thanks. You may want to give another gift in return for what you have received. Sing a song, leave a strand of your hair, or a libation of liquid - make it something that won't impact on another person's enjoyment of the place.
Record in your journal what you have received and visit your new friend often.
This exercise owes a debt to the teachings of Emma Restall-Orr.
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