I’ve always found trees to be the most inspirational of subject matters, for they share this planet with us in profound ways and without them we would never exist quite the same.
As a child growing up in rural Iowa, I frequently enjoyed climbing trees and spent many a day among their branches and leaves in close communion with them; speaking regularly to them as if they understood me and I them.
Flash forward to adulthood. I belonged to a performance art troupe in Los Angeles under the guidance and artistic direction of renowned performance theatre artist Rachel Rosenthal. In 2006 she gave our troupe, Fauve Conspiracy, the assignment of creating pieces based on trees. We created a show called “Arboretum” and she urged us to read Robert Graves “The White Goddess” as research. At over 500 pages it was a bit of a daunting task, but I took it with me on a two-week retreat to the jungles of Peru.
Our retreat leader knew that I was working on a performance piece around the theme of trees, so gave our entire group a suggestion to try out while on retreat. Based on esoteric wisdom he heard about, it was a ritual meditation that would put us in touch with the “Tree Spirit/Keeper of the Trees”. We were to visit a tree of our choice on three different occasions to spend time with the tree in a meditation. During the second session we would gift the tree something of value as an offering. On the third occaision we would ask the tree to offer us some kind of wisdom or message – how that manifested would be different for each person/tree. This exercise led a rather incredible experience – one which is poetically expressed via performance art.
As a result of the time in the jungle, surrounded by trees, reading about trees, and connecting with the Tree Spirit, I returned to Los Angeles and created the short performance piece called “Ash – Axis Mundi”. The piece begins with two foppish gardeners planting seeds and watering the audience while a young child version of me gives a rather innocent presentation about being a tree (the costume made of all paper products). The child is teased by the gardeners, and the child “grows up” declaring their connection to the trees. A Tree Spirit enters and imparts his sacred branch/staff to the adult, who engages in a dance with it. The branch/staff becomes emblematic/symbolic of many traits and elements of human relationship with wood. It becomes a dance partner, a burden, a weapon, an object of wonder, etc. Finally the Tree Spirit returns and imparts the adult with a seed to plant. He is about to plant it into the ground, but instead plants it within himself…and allows the tree energy to grow within: finally achieving his dream of inner communion with the trees.
It’s perhaps a bit odd upon casual viewing, but if one allows themselves to be as open to receiving as one does with exercises in which one connects with tree spirits I would hope it is enjoyable. Thanks.