Sometimes the return to nature consists of a visit with a lone tree encased in concrete in the open expanse of a sea of black top. By whatever set of circumstances this is where we have found ourselves alone, but not lonely, in the center of a parking lot next to a Chucky Cheese. We are joined by a small gathering of Juniper bushes that seem genuinely disgruntled by having been placed there and did not have much to add to the conversation. Surrounded by the splintery mulch, we sat and talked.
I began by expressing my gratitude to the tree for the shade that it had provided my mobile home during the heat of the day keeping the environment cool for the resident cat during my absence. That began the following interview:
Tree: No problem, it’s one of the things I do. I think that is why I am here (in the parking lot).
SM: If there was one thing you wanted me personally or humanity in general to understand about you, what would that be?
Tree: That I am a sentient being. I experience birth, a life span and death. During that life I eat and defecate, reproduce, breath and I have an awareness of my environment and myself.
SM: What do you mean, “have an awareness of my environment and myself”.
Tree: Well, with all this space around me, I can grow in my own fractal pattern unhindered by the influence of other larger trees. However, if I were growing next to a much larger tree I might have to make adjustments to my growth to get to the sun better. Perhaps I might be crowded and not be able to grow the limbs on one side for instance.
SM: Yes, I get that.
Tree: I have my bark to protect me from fire and insects that would harm me. I can put my roots down further in the earth to get to water if need be and I will stretch up toward sun to get the energy I need to reproduce. So, as you can see, we might look different, but we both long for the same things and have the same needs. But ultimately we really are made of the same stuff and come from the same source, so I cannot understand why humans cannot see us as sentient beings. I think it is just ignorance so I try not to get too upset and just be. It’s not like I can just get up and walk away.
SM: Well, speaking for myself, I have always considered everything within my experience as having some sentience, although I must admit, I did not expect this depth of conversation with a tree. Thank you for explaining this to me and I will maintain my awareness around what you have said.
Tree: Ha (as in the Lakota way of saying yes).