Why talking to trees is so good for you

Over the last two years, I’ve gone from being sheepish and shy about my tree-talking tendencies to feeling like it’s a completely normal thing to do.

(Maybe this is why solitude generates eccentrics? They don’t have as much social feedback to tone them down? Also: gratitude to my family, who have come to accept this habit of mine casually, as in “oh, are you going to go and talk to your trees now”, “ahaha it’s so funny, the cats followed you down when you went to talk to your trees” etc.)

On Saturday, I joined our guest-blogger, Monica Sander Burns, on a guided forest therapy walk co-hosted by the Wellness Almanac. We will do another. I hope. I can’t even tell you what a magical experience it is…

Here’s a moment of me making a new acquaintance.

Maybe the best way to wrap some words around why this – making time to just go and be still in a forest, or by a river – feels so useful right now, comes from this short video, How to Hear What Nature is Saying.

‘We are suffering from a great separation sickness ourselves. And in our days of rush, we’re kind of crushing our spirits. We have short attention spans, we demand immediate gratification, we’re permanently distracted. We’re not even long with our own pets in the evenings. We might be there as a sort of hollow skin bag, but we’re on devices or watching something distracted in our minds. And the animals just sit there looking at us like “Hello, lights are on but no one’s home.”’

Anna Breytenbach

I have a few regular spots – one in particular – that my nervous system has come to recognize as a place of calm and stillness. So, something maybe shifts a little internally, when I show up to that place, and step into a circle of trees, or sit on a rock by the river, and say hello.

Nothing happens really if I don’t first say hello.

Same when I travelled in Japan for work a few years ago. People would just ignore me, unless I made an effort to say hello first. And then there would be smiles, greetings, bows, acknowledgement, connection.

After a while, it doesn’t seem weird at all, to greet the world in this way. Good morning, hello, it’s nice to see you. I practice saying it in Ucwalmícwts too, because Lisa Sambo shared the word  áma s7at̓sxentsína (it’s good to see you!) with us when she launched a t-shirt language revitalization project, and it feels nice to greet the trees in the language of the land they are part of. (And I don’t think they’re offended as I fumble over tricky sounds… they just wait patiently as I try, try again.)

Sometimes, as happened last Saturday at forest bathing therapy, as happened the other morning, I have a little cry. There’s something about the space, the steadfastness, the grace, the stillness, that accepts everything that is… not just the rush, and the tension, and the upbeatness, but the other things that surface if given a little quiet… my fears about the world right now, my deep gratitude for my people, how marvellous the mosses and lichens and fungi seem, other harder-to-put-words-to emotions that live in the deep and need time to surface and decompress, lest they somehow deform at being surfaced with too much haste and pressure… a la the Blobfish.

All of which is simply to say, you do what you gotta do. But don’t forego a good tree-chat for fear of seeming weird. You would, actually, find yourself in good company.

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