The Memory Of Trees

“The Dryad” – Evelyn De Morgan

Trauma responses are funny things.  I recently observed a very peculiar phenomenon occurring with my Weeping Cherry tree that made me wonder if perhaps it was undergoing a Pluto transit.  I’ve known this tree for quite a long time and have witnessed its behavior from season to season, year to year and something strange happened where it did something I’ve never seen it do before.  Usually sometime between April and May this tree will have a profusion of pink blossoms arcing gracefully downward from its slender whip-like branches, but this year my locale had an unexpected late frost that must have stopped dead in its tracks whatever budding was in the process of occurring.  I’ve seen something similar happen once before; very few (if any) blossoms on the tree and it went straight into the leafing stage.  But this year it was so shocked it didn’t do either.  I checked it for signs of life (the branches were indeed still alive) and waited patiently – by mid-June, it still looked as barren as if it had been mid-January instead.

I knew straight away what was going on: Trauma response.  This poor tree was in a delicate and vulnerable state when the temps abruptly plummeted below freezing, and it was apparent to me that my Weeping Cherry was having a really hard time overriding the memory of that difficult time and believing that it was safe enough to bring forth new foliage.  How could it trust there wouldn’t be another freak cold snap?  I understood – put anyone’s (physical, emotional, psychological) sense of survival in jeopardy and shock their system like that and, well, all kinds of screwy things can happen.  It’s not the tree’s fault; this is merely the result of it having to find a way to exist in a very abnormal and seemingly precarious environment. Pluto transits tend to symbolize these trauma responses – all kinds of “crisis situations” (pick your least favorite hellscape) can arise under this planet’s influence that are likely to test one’s ability to “live through this”.  With Pluto they love to say “What does not kill you makes you stronger”, but I can tell you that is trite and bitter consolation to someone who is right in the thick of it.  They’ll also conveniently forget to mention that too often with Pluto, “strength” is actually a code word for self-imposed isolation à la “I don’t need anyone or anything” – it is a rejection of love, help, care, or anything else that might make one seem “weak” or “needy”.

This is preposterous of course – even if this is a trauma response, no (wo)man is an island and everybody needs somebody or something.  Trees too, and clearly it needed my help.  We don’t judge plants for their failure to grow or thrive during periods of extreme climatological duress; we see what we can do to support their recovery.  Sometimes just making it through the ordeal is enough. Maybe we might give them extra water in a drought, prop them up with a supportive stake in high winds, or mound up a heavy, protective layer of mulch over their root bed for the winter.  What I decided my tree needed was a little gentle reassurance and reiki, so I went over and spoke to the Plant Spirit of my Weeping Cherry; giving it ample assurance that winter truly was over along with my word that it was safe to come out as I laid hands upon it and channeled forth healing energy. Roughly 4-5 days later it started springing forth small and wispy green tendrils.

If the memory of trees is strong enough to hold onto the experience of a single isolated trauma so strongly, what must this mean for the more complex human organism?  And more importantly, what will we do about it; will we help?

“Young King of the Black Isles” – Maxfield Parrish



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