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listening to the trees

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There are times, when I am trying to tell my children something wise, that a smidgen of myself truly hears what I am saying. The recent revolving phrase in our home has been, “Not listening turns simple tasks into big problems.” I’ve said it over and over again. Then this morning, as I returned home from taking my oldest son to school, I heard it again. I truly heard it. I heard it in the trees. I heard it in the songs of the chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. I should be listening too. “Not listening turns simple tasks into big problems.”

Black-capped chickadee

Listening to the birds is easy. They put their song out to the world. But it is on those late winter morning that they burst forth with fervor that we are reminded that each of them has a unique song to sing. If we are fortunate enough to know their songs, a whole world of possibility emerges. Over the upcoming months I will wait patiently to hear the song of the black-capped chickadee to change from a raspy “chic-a-dee-dee-dee-dee” to a crisp and brilliant “springs-here…springs-here.” It is a reminder that a symphony is yet to come as the robins, juncos, flickers, doves, and sparrows return to the north.

While part of my spirit might belong to the birds, my heart resides with the trees.


Sketches of some of my best friends.

Trees are some of my best friends. There are many that I know well, box elders, ashes, poplars, and oaks. There are some that I miss dearly, red buds, dogwoods, sweet gums, sycamores, and magnolias. Even from the furthest distance, I can still hear them. I can still know them. But perhaps they know me better. They bear witness to my being.

I missed these friends so dearly last spring that I took a solo train ride “back home” to the St. Louis area. I had come to the stark realization that I had been severely neglecting my creative inclinations. I took this trip to do a little soul searching, spend some time with my brother and sister, and listen to what the blossoming trees had to say.

Flowering dogwoods have so much wisdom imbued into those branches.

When I arrived in St. Louis, I could smell the blossoms in the air. It was a familiar perfume that overwhelmed the surrounding urban industries. I could smell the floral scent as I drove my dad’s car through the refineries of Wood River and East Alton. It was a comfort to know that something so strong welcomed me. The trees did look bigger. Grandma’s yard was much different than how I remembered. I knew that the apple trees I used to climb were long gone.

But the branches of other trees expanded out. There was less open space. Everything else felt smaller. Space is infinitely changing. Yet, mourning doves still occupy the edges of the yard. Squirrels are still fed and I am sure the horseradish still grows.

Everything is smaller. Except the trees.

Everything is smaller. Except the trees.

It seemed more like a process of recollection than recognition. Much like the processes young red bud branches undergo each spring as tiny delicate heart shaped leaves grow, nestled amid the perfectly intricate pink blossoms. eastern-redbud

With that recollection came a process of my own blossoming growth. I began to claim and maintain what was mine. I understood that the shades of colors that occupy my mind might not exist until I define them. In order to do that, I have to be willing to continue listening to the trees. 779154960_2767274445_0After all, that is where my heart is.

They continue to say,

Be strong. Be flexible. Grow. Be a refuge to others when you can. Reach for the sky. Prepare for the cold of winter. Celebrate the return of spring with running streams of sap and bursting buds of beauty. Embrace the warmth of summer and allow it to provide shade for others. Honor the turn of autumn with colorful confetti. Embrace what comes. Dance with the wind. Flourish within yourself. Don’t do. Just be. Continue to listen. Creation and existence is not without purpose, nor is it without love or pain. We have more to say.

rachel, in her natural habitat


About Rachel

Rachel is an independent artist and writer who thrives on sharing her deep appreciation for the natural world. She has taught college courses in wildlife identification, ethnobotany, environmental science, natural resource management, and cultural studies. She lives in North Dakota with her two boys, husband, dog, and cats. She enjoys gardening, cooking, drawing, writing, hunting, hiking, and snowshoeing, but is usually too tired to do any of these, except for writing...

4 responses »

  1. Pingback: divergence and convergence of creativity and recovery «

  2. Pingback: The Divergent and Convergent Paths of Creativity and Recovery «

  3. A beautiful nostalgic creative reminder that I’ve got ears to hear…thank you


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