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Each of us belongs to places and landscapes that nurture our bodies, minds, and spirits. We also dwell in a home place in our hearts, a private inner landscape. As cycles of day, moon, and seasons pass, our inner and outer landscapes mirror and respond. When we are in tune with our own sense of time and place, we truly come home. Each month, I'll share words, images, and practices to inspire you to connect with ease to your life purpose; your family, friends, and community; and the wonders of the natural world. Over time, the Homecomings series will expand your capacity to integrate scientific and spiritual ways of knowing. Whatever aspects of joy, wellness, or learning you seek, all you need for getting there is found in your own heart and in your home, yard, and neighborhood.

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Witness Tree and the Tree of Life

Trees are wisdom keepers. They stand in a single place on the earth’s surface and faithfully witness the unfolding of time. Like people, trees observe their surroundings, root where welcomed, reach toward nourishment, and hold close where limited.  They form scar tissue when wounded and can adapt to change.  Examining the lives of trees offers critical insights for human wellbeing and survival, showing us when life thrives and falters.

“Witness tree” is an expression used for trees that mark boundaries, act as signposts and directionals, or witness key events in history and local culture – celebratory and tragic.  Trees also witness the in-between moments that are precious and informative in their own right. Through this collaborative witnessing of trees and people, we hope to foster a world that is richer and more sustainable for both.

My dear friends Rebecca Power, John Steines, and I partnered over a year ago to create Witness Tree, an art exhibit at Commonwealth Gallery in Madison, WI – with the two of them as artists (along with many others they invited) and me serving as facilitator of group activities and community conversations.  The above is our statement of purpose, and below is a picture of our world tree gallery where we gathered for circles of story, poetry, meditation, conversation, and leaf-making.

b2ap3_thumbnail_panorama.jpg

More recently Rebecca and John joined with other tree-minded artists in a fabulous follow up Tree of Life art exhibit at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. Again, my role was to support the artists by facilitating a community conversation at the gallery to draw people into a more intentional experience of the Tree of Life exhibit. To kick of the conversation, we guided participants to reflect on their experience of the art and then to share in single words on slips of paper how the art inspired their personal connection with trees and the Tree of Life as metaphor for the connectivity of all living things.

We then collected the words to create a word cloud as a collective representation of everyone’s experience of the Tree of Life art.  Perhaps you can imagine the diversity of art in the exhibit through this “reverse experience” of viewing the visitor’s words rather than the works of art themselves.

b2ap3_thumbnail_wordcloud_2.jpg

As you view the trees in your home place over the next days and weeks, you might collect your own words of response and create a word cloud as an alternative, or in addition, to a journal. You can create your own word cloud with the tree or other shapes at http://www.tagxedo.com/

In alliance with the trees,
Anne

Credits: Thanks to Math Heinzel for the Witness Tree panorama, Amy Fenn for creating the word cloud, and the many others who contributed to the art exhibits and associated programming.

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  I grew up with hands in the dirt, bugs in a jar, and tadpoles in a tub. Over the years, in support of environmental and community collaborations as a biologist, ecologist, consultant, facilitator, teacher, and spiritual seeker, I’ve designed innovative participatory workshops and forums. Nowadays as an elder, my passion is to create open, collective spaces for people to witness the natural world and creatively communicate what they learn and experience. I am the author of Wheels of Time and Place, a unique toolkit for tracking all sorts of cycles and seasons. One of my favorite creative pastimes is collage, and I am a certified SoulCollage® facilitator. My spiritual study and practice includes Quaker, Buddhist, and indigenous traditions, including lineages from Tibet, North America, and Peru. I will soon graduate from the Three Doors Academy and begin to offer selected meditation practices from the ancient Bön-Buddhist tradition of Tibet. These transformative practices for body, speech, and mind are now available to the modern world in a secular form through the generosity of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche  

Comments

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Tuesday, 08 April 2014

    Thanks so much for this! Your affirming the witnesses and caretakers of transitions is a healing for me. As a shaman, I often find myself in someone's life during a transitional period they are in. I love providing this support for so many people but sometimes, once a transition is over, people minimize it, as if the transition was something to be ashamed of. In the process, the caretaker during the transition becomes an object of fear, bc they witnessed the transition. I do not like having that projected onto me. Bless you for your healing project.

  • Irene bryson
    Irene bryson Tuesday, 08 April 2014

    My name is Irene and I am new to this, don't know how I came across it but have always been interested would love to enter into this new world

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