Women and Trees – What’s the Connection?
I’ve always felt a strong connection to trees. Even as a child growing up in England I felt safe among the tree edging the Llangollen Canal at Wrenbury Bridge. In fact this is the first time I came to know the presence of God or, something greater than myself. In later years I spent many happy hours beneath our backyard maple while my children played in the wading pool. It was a place of comfort and shade from hot Canadian summers. Then at 50 I had my croning (coming of age) ceremony beneath the branches of silver birch sparkling with twinkling lights along a river bank. I remember as we danced I felt a connection to what I imagined was the Druids of England who also danced beneath the sheltering trees in their own time. As trees play such an important role in my life, I began to wonder what we, as women, can learn from trees that would help us to understand ourselves and how we move through the world.
Trees, by nature have their roots planted firmly in the ground, while their limbs reach up to the heavens. This symbolizes balance between heaven and earth. It is our need for a solid foundation in which to grow outward and upward towards our full potential. Recently a friend of mine has felt rootless as she searched for a place to set down new roots after the end of a relationship that did not nurture who she was. By learning to nurture herself, she has been able to find new and fertile ground in which to plant her roots and is thriving once again after a long period of drought.
Cycles of Life
Trees also have their cycle of growth in their own Life/Death/Life cycle that I spoke of in another post called, Cycle of Love. (Memoir). When the leaves of a tree die in the fall, the seeds are renewed in the spring to flourish once again. Women also have what Pinkola Estes calls seven-year cycles. For example: 21-28 is the age of exploration of new life and new worlds; 49-56 is the age of learning the words and rite of the underworld, and so on. I think that by understanding and accepting these natural cycles will make it easier for women to navigate our way through them bringing us closer to our wildish nature. Trees don’t question what happens to them, they merely respond to what is. I know this idea of acceptance as we move through life has had a powerful impact on me. It is a much faster path through diversity when we are willing to accept rather than question that which we have no control over.
Initiation into the Underground
On a deeper level, in Women who run with the Wolves, Clarrisa Pinkola Estes talks about how trees symbolize a woman’s initiation into the underground forest where she must go through a rite of endurance brought about by a loss or betrayal. Though we are loath to go through this initiatory process, it is necessary so we can see the world more clearly. If we chose not to go through this process then we cannot grow as individuals. Like the tree, maturation takes time, sometimes years, to come to fruition. Journeying to the underground is about coming into contact our individuation. Sometimes we allow others to determine who we are. In this journey to the underground, we recover ourselves by ourselves. In this unfamiliar habitat, new ways of thinking become necessary to survive while the old is left by the wayside as it no longer serves our new world order.
Trees are all around us. They live, breath, eat, nourish, shelter, are connected to the underground, go through cycles, need nurturing, and offer comfort. They remind us of our rite of passage as women and our right to be who we are. So the next time you see a tree, I hope it will be a reminder of the many things you have in common, particularly these natural cycles, along with your connection to the underworld.
Paintings by Emily Carr (Canadian Artist)