The Evening Tree

Sunset through trees

Winter, evening—same thing, that late phase of life. It’s a good time and I’m in it.  I walk outdoors often, listening outward and inward. Sometimes a poem comes.


I’d stopped by the evening tree
(or else was stopped below it)
when there arose in me
this deep-felt certainty:
It’s one thing to be free,
but a better thing to know it.

Cedar root or shamanic dancerTrees are often called “Standing People” in Native American cultures or their modern variations. Sometimes there is an uncanny arboreal-human resemblance, if only in the eye of the beholder. When I first saw (in 3-D) what is pictured here, it looked like a shamanic dancer or whirlwind witch (with light forehead, shaded torso, long robe, and arms flailing). When Ethan saw the photo, he asked, “What is that—a chicken?”

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Many artists claim Nature literally communicates. For example, I’m told that one noted author got the stories she wrote from her backyard tree. Of course, she had to be open to that communication. Is it any more odd for a child to talk with a teddy bear? Children may actually be more attuned to a living universe than we adults are.

Few outdoor experiences are as calming as sitting beneath a protective tree or just leaning against its trunk. Hugging it is another option that has advocates.

Trees often give their lives for us (willingly, unwillingly, or obliviously) and we have been known to reciprocate. For example, in 1730 in India, more than 300 people were slaughtered as they tried to protect community trees they considered sacred. These Bishnois men, women, and children were the original and literal tree-huggers. Their attempt to save holy trees from a palace construction was ultimately successful, leading to forestry reforms.

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Purple paint on tree trunkWhere I often walk, many of the trees have been conscripted as property guards. Insignia is plastered on their chests via black, yellow, and fluorescent-orange signs that warn “Keep Out, No Trespassing” or purple paint that proclaims the same thing. Those purple splotches mirror the way animals urinate to claim territory: “Smell this? It’s taken. Scram!”

I let my eyes and mind violate these warnings all they want and am glad when trees shed such insignia. Not that I don’t appreciate human law, but I also appreciate natural law—which has more longevity and legitimacy. Pictured here is a tree sloughing off its purple rags.

I border on being political with this post, and maybe naively so. Lately and often, I hear that the world is in decline. I don’t think so. Mother Nature is just helping us grow up—to love more and steward better. All our urges from the heart come through her, or at least are not in contradiction. That is my understanding, shared with me by the trees.  ♥ ~Jo

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Photo Credits: All by Jo Lightfoot

Cedar root


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