I stepped over the branch and took a few steps more.
‘Wait!’ Said a voice. ‘Come back.’
It was the branch. A sapling really, about a meter and a half long and about 2cm thick at its base, tapering off to thin trigs and branches at the ends. Its leaves had browned and it was laid across the path.
‘I want to come with you,’ it said. ‘Come back.’
‘I’m not really a walking stick person.’ I replied. ‘And you’re a bit small anyway aren’t you? You’re too thin. If I trimmed you down you wouldn’t be long enough for a walking stick.’
‘Just come back and have a look. Pick me up would you? Just come and see,’ it insisted.
So I bent down and saw that the tree was still attached a little at it’s base. It had only recently been snapped there. The wood was still fresh and alive even though the leaves were browned. I pulled it away and it broke ever so easily. It was starting to rain. A drizzle that made my cloak damp, but I was out walking today and warm enough.
‘Which tree are you?’ I wonder.
‘Scribbly gum.’ It replied, with more of a gesture to the other similar trees nearby than with words. ‘That’s my mother.’ It pointed out a large grey barked scribbly gum about four or five meters away.
‘Right, would you like to be ogham for me?’ I ask, visualising the set of staves from many different trees I have at home that I lovingly collect and use as a divination tool.
‘Oh yes. Of course.’ Said the stick rather enthusiastically.
‘Lovely,’ I say, ‘I don’t think I have the grey kind of scribbly gum from the mountains yet.’ I get my pocket knife from my crane bag and start trimming.
‘Yes yes, but I’m more than that. Take me with you.’ It was particularly insistent.
I cut a smaller piece from the thinner end and trimmed it to about 15cm long. An ogham stave. I would add it to my collection at home, marking the tree’s name on the end. But the stick wouldn’t let me put down the larger piece. I put the ogham piece in my crane bag, and held the larger one in my hand as I walked.
‘Alright, let’s go.’ I said, starting up the track again.The stick was talkative.
‘It’s nice to be in the air, moving again,’ it said, ‘I do like to fly.’ It seemed happy.
‘Fly?’ I asked. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well,’ said the stick, ‘flying is terribly important to us you know. We spend out whole lives as trees talking to moths that grow in our bark. They share with us stories of flying and moving. It’s our mythology. We sing the songs and tell the stories of the moths as they grow and then farewell them as we watch them fly out into the sky. Then, when the time comes, our consciousness moves into the seed and we fly too. It is a most wonderful part of our existence and I remember it well.’
‘Ok,’ I say. ‘But isn’t that just a moment? Surely you don’t go very far?’
‘Oh but to us, it is far, and a journey of great detail and wonder. Sometimes the wind will blow us many meters. And our sense of time is very different to yours, human. The seed time feels very long, and is full of wonder for us. It fills us with joy.’
The stick communicated a feeling to me that was like being in love, elated and ecstatic and joyful.
‘We feel the sky and the wind as we fly. We sing its songs and tell its stories and speak to the wind of the needs of the trees. We share all of our stories with the wind and it passes them on to others.
‘Then we fall to the earth and speak to the soil and the sand. We open to it and tell it everything, all the stories and songs, and the needs of trees and it speaks to us of the ways of the earth and we become one another.
‘Then the rains come and we speak to the waters telling them of the needs of trees, our stories and songs. You see? This is how we move and now I move again with you.’
‘You’re very talkative,’ I say.
‘Yes I can talk to you anytime. I will walk with you and we will speak of the forest together. All of the stories and songs. I will tell you of the needs of trees.’
‘I’d like that.’ I say.
‘I will be your walking stick, but maybe in your hand. Cut me short, look! Find stones to put onto me. You can do this. Find them and they will speak to you, you’ll know the right ones.’
I look as I walk and find stones. A white quartz for peace, and clearer one for clarity. A pink quartz for nurturing. A triangular shaped stone for direction. Another pointed quartz for protection. And three small stones – for Land, Sea and Sky.
‘You must make me into this “walking stick”.’ Said the tree. ‘Take me with you when you walk and I will talk to you. Or talk to me at any time. I will help you. I will be your guide. What do you need help with human?’
‘That’s kind.’ I say. ‘The human world is sad, at the moment. We are grieving many losses.’
‘You need healing.’ Said the stick.
‘Yes, how do we heal?’ I ask
‘The tree loves itself. We come into being through love.’
‘We need to love ourselves?’ I ask.
‘Yes. But humans think love is just two. It is all.’
‘I’m not sure what you mean.’
In reply I’m given an image of a tree, with all of its parts connected. Each leaf like a human, we too are connected like the tree.
‘Humans…’ I start, wondering ‘are we like trees?’
‘Yes, humans are one tree walking. All one tree.’
‘All one tree?’
‘Yes. You forget. You are all one tree.’
The image becomes clearer, as though there is an invisible tree-like network between all humans, that joins us.
I reply by seeing in my mind’s eye an image of the separateness of humankind – the splitting off into factions and opposing groups, different ideologies causing conflict and pain.
‘How do we heal?’ I ask.
‘You have each found yourselves on small branches. You have been there too long only speaking with this one branch. You need to learn to speak to the whole tree.’ Said the stick.
‘What do you mean?’ I ask.
‘If the branches are sick, send love to the trunk. If the trunk is sick, send love to the roots. Send love human. You are all one tree.’
I ponder on this as my mind is filled with feelings, metaphors and concepts of interconnectedness, universal consciousness, and the human race as a single, united being that is unwell and in need of healing – the healing of love like that elated feeling of the seed flying through the air.
I realise that I live in a way that is a bit isolated – spending most of my time with people who are a lot like me. The message I am getting says loud and clear that I must learn to communicate what is important to me, and what has helped me in my life, in ways that are accessible to “the whole tree”. It’s a shift of perspective that means a lot to me.
‘Sing the songs, tell the stories. Speak to the land, sea and sky of the needs of your tree. And love the whole tree. This will heal you.’ Said the stick in conclusion.
The stick then demands that I take it home, turn it into a wand-like “walking stick” and meditate with it often. It tells me it is going to continue to help me. I rather like this stick.
‘I like you, human.’ Said the stick.
‘I like you too stick.’ I reply. And we go home.
By Julie Brett 2020.
Based on an actual conversation with a stick. I did actually go on a walk where I found a stick and came across these insights. It wasn’t exactly like the conversation outlined here. The communication was not so much in words as it was in floods of patterns of images and ideas, whole vistas of idea conveyed in a moment, but this story conveys something of the feeling. I find communication with nature spirits to be very straightforward like this, though sometimes that can be a little confusing, but when meditated on, it often holds deep insight and wisdom. There is a real sense of encountering “otherness” in these experiences that is curious, spiritual, and mysterious, but if we can stay open to the wonder of things, and keep our feet on the ground with a bit of a laugh about it all, it’s a wonderful experience. These things happen spontaneously and often to me when I’m in nature alone. Call it a nature meditation if you will. Call it communicating with nature spirits. Call it a weirdo talking to herself in the woods. Lol. I hope you enjoyed it either way.
This piece was also published in the Imbolc 2020 edition of SerpentStar the OBOD Southern Hemisphere newsletter.
If you’d like to learn more about connecting with the land and nature spirituality in Australia, my book Australian Druidry has lots of information on starting your journey, looking at local seasonal changes, animal and plant symbolism, ancestral connections, and how to create personal rituals for inspiration.
Signed copies available here.