Caring for and Healing the Earth

Caretaking Experiences

Grey Birch

by Susan Skinner

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to help clean up a community blueberry orchard. It was a beautiful blue sky day and I decided to stop in an open field and connect with nature. Shortly after continuing, as I walked up to the tree line by a pond that borders the field, I was called to by a grey birch tree.

At first, I just looked at the tree as I walked by but before getting past it, I had to stop and really look at it. I’ve walked by this same tree a number of times but didn’t notice it. My friend was being choked by Japanese honeysuckle and wisteria. It was so bad, the vines hung in curtains from the lower branches to the ground. The wisteria was the vehicle for the largest honeysuckle vines and it was wrapped all the way up the trunk to the highest branches of the 25 foot tree. It was literally being strangled and dragged to the ground.

I needed to get to the blueberries but I talked to the birch and promised to return. I started to walk away but it was crying at me. It pulled at my heart. I promised to be back later that same day. Only then did I feel the sense of urgency subside.

After almost 4 hours of intensive pruning in the blueberry patch, I left tired and hungry and having totally forgotten about the earlier encounter and promise. I left my pruning saw with a friend to continue pruning blueberry bushes. So that left only my pruning cutters (a sturdy pair, thank goodness!) in my pack. I was walking along pleased about the work that had been done when I found myself walking straight towards the birch.

My first thought was that I would come back tomorrow. But when I got closer I knew I had to at least get started. I had promised. Dropping my pack, armed with my cutters I started on the curtains thinking if I just cut the vines, they would dry up and eventually break off of the tree. It was soon apparent that method was not going to provide the relief the tree was pleading for. I had to explain to the vines as I worked that they did not need the tree as much as the tree needed to be free from them. As I worked it was incredible to sense the emotions from the tree and the vines. I climbed, unwrapped, clipped and kept going until the tree was completely free.

It practically wrecked my cutters but one hour later, I stood back and felt the tree breathe unrestricted. This was my reward.

I encourage all of you caretakers to throw your tools and a water bottle in a pack and get out there. Nature cannot be heard by ears (minds and hearts) that are already full of noise. Take a few moments before you start out to empty and slow down enough that you’ll hear the messages when they come, and they will come.


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