Today’s guest blogger is Sharon Shier (Huxford), who currently lives with her husband Alexander on a 1986 Bestway Trawler anchored at a secluded marina in Goodland, Florida, nestled among beautiful mangrove islands. She has 4 children, and 4 grandchildren with a 5th on the way. Sharon has published one book, titled Initiation, about her life experiences living in a monastery under the tutelage of a Buddhist teacher. She is currently working on two books, one titled Mangrove Mysteries, the other titled Transitions, Life after the Monastery. Thanks Sharon for your reflections here.
When we’re not living aboard our boat, my husband and I live in a small town on a small lake in northern Michigan that those of us who live there call our secret paradise. Were it not for the cold winters, our population would rise dramatically; but we do have cold winters. The people who do choose to live in our area are a hearty, independent, often off-the-grid folk, and I love being a part of that community. To my surprise and delight as a newer arrival to the area, they are also warmly embracing of newcomers…
Early last spring, my husband Alex and I were invited to a friends’ maple tree farm to ‘tap’ the maple trees for the sap that would soon be flowing. He is a small producer of maple syrup, a ‘hobbyist’ he told us, and since we love maple syrup as well and this would be a totally new experience for us, we eagerly accepted the invitation. The way it worked was that a group of us gathered at the farm, got our instructions and then were led by our friend as he drove his tractor around marking the trees that would be tapped. All the equipment for tapping was on the sled behind the tractor.
Our jobs were to work in teams drilling holes into the trees, then putting metal wedges into the holes so the sap can drain into the buckets that we attached to the wedges.
Everyone was in high spirits; the day was bright and sunny and the land we were on was gorgeous.
As we set about to tap the trees, I did have some concern that it might be painful for the trees to have their trunks drilled into, and their juices drained, so I asked our friend Bob about it. He said as long as we didn’t drill in too far the trees would heal over by next year, but if we drilled in past a certain point it could damage the tree seriously. He was convinced there was no pain involved. As we moved through the day I kept seeing the image of a human with IV lines running out their arms and legs, giving their blood. Overall it was a wonderful day and we learned about the entire process of producing maple syrup. His equipment was state of the art.
Later in the evening though, after we left the farm and were driving home, I began to have strange feelings coming at me, into me, from me…I wasn’t sure which, but at some point it finally penetrated my consciousness and I began to pay attention. There was this loud wailing…not exactly a sound but more of a vibration…again, I didn’t know what was happening but it kept on and on and on. So I stopped DOing and went to sit in my meditation room and quiet my mind. As my body became still and the thought fragments from the day faded into the background, an image flashed so clearly in my mind’s eye; I saw all 300 trees we had tapped. They were crying, and crying and crying. It was awful feeling their sadness, and I was stunned. I cried and they cried and finally I began apologizing and telling them how sorry I was for having hurt them. After awhile the crying stopped and I had the sense that they accepted my apology and my promise to never hurt them again.
For days afterward I felt the imprint of this experience as a weight, but also as an incompletion…something wasn’t quite understood by me. Once again I stopped and sat quietly for a bit, posing the question, ‘what am I missing’…and what came to me was ‘you didn’t ask; you just took from us’. “Oh my,” I thought. “That’s what I wasn’t seeing clearly.” And I realized then what I had been missing: The trees are living beings. I wouldn’t take blood from a human without asking nor should I take from the trees, just because they don’t have an obvious voice to speak with. So I asked then. “Would you have given me permission?” And what I heard was, ‘you have to ask each tree as you approach it’. Even though in some sense they have a collective consciousness, there is also an individuality that must be respected.
I wanted to share this experience because it penetrated me so deeply and was such a profound wake-up call. All life is sacred and here I had spent an entire day taking from these beautiful trees, without giving anything in return.
I do understand that this is an unusual twist to a simple article about tapping maple trees. Even though I consider myself a spiritual being, frankly ‘talking’ trees were not anything I’ve experienced before, which is probably why it took me so long to ‘hear’ them. I am truly grateful that the trees cared enough to reach out to me so persistently until I was finally able to hear them…they gave me a second chance.
Since that day I’ve done a lot of research on the internet to see if anyone else has had similar experiences with trees, plants and such, and come to find out, this is not an uncommon experience. There is a large group in Northern Italy at a place called Damanhur who work with and record singing plants and trees. I’m headed out there in September of this year for a tour of their place and to satisfy that part of my brain that says ‘talking plants’? I don’t think so. If you’re interested, why not do some experimenting for yourself?