When Trees Sing

What does it sound like when trees sing? 

“At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is.”


― Annie Dillard

I haven't seen him since the age of 10 and its likely that he doesn't remember me.  But my childhood mentor, Flying Fox told tales about his deep nature connection that were so compelling, they have inspired me for nearly 30 years and counting. 

Fox said that when he touched the rocks, he could experience geologic time and some trees he befriended would exchange gifts with him. Fox shared a traditional tree honoring song which I remember to this day. He said that if you sang that song and you listened deeply enough, sometimes you could hear the trees singing with you. 

I wanted an experience like Fox's. With the literal mind of a child, I used to imagine that the song of trees would be the rustle of leaves in the wind and the gifts would be something like a leaf that might fall into my hand synchronistically.  I was convinced that if I approached in the right way, I would discover something deeper, something that my heart would know was real. I wanted to connect with nature but I didn't know how. 

I sat under many trees.  I sang the tree honoring song over the years.  I got frustrated.  I almost gave up.

Deep nature connection takes time.  It takes sitting in a world of uncertainty and being patient.  It is work. But I will never forget the first moment that I heard the trees sing. It was heartbreaking and joyful and not at all what I thought it would be.  I was surprised to realize that the song of nature isn't something that happens rarely. It had been happening all around us continuously only I didn't have the ears to hear it until I did. Sometimes I can hear it now, sometimes I can't.  It takes a lot of attention to listen so deeply. 

 If you want, you can experience the same thing. It is not a matter of individual worth to be able to listen. Anyone can do it. What does it sound like when trees sing?  This is a koan that I am giving to you as it was given to me. 

Go to the forest. Find a tree. listen without expectation.  Sing. It might take a day. It might take a lifetime. One thing is for sure, when trees sing, they can only be heard by those who are listening.