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Tree Spirits
by Jim Brinkley

Huna teaches us that everything is alive, aware, and responsive. Therefore everything has a spirit. Many people reject this idea outright, since it appears to contradict much of what we are taught from early childhood. If the idea has even a modicum of appeal for you and yet seems totally implausible, consider simply pretending that it is true. Think of what could happen if everyone just pretended that everything is alive, aware, and responsive. Think of how we would approach everything with a greater degree of caring and respect. There is a famous teaching that says, "Never love things and use people; instead, love people and use things." But what if we were to love people and things? And what if, instead of using them, we were to cooperate with them in a spirit of harmony?

Huna also teaches us that everything is connected, so our own spirits are each connected to all other spirits. As human beings, we usually tend to have the closest spiritual connections with those life forms with which we share similarities. Only rarely do we relate to those life forms very different from us. For example, many people have very close relationships with dogs or horses but few have close relationships with snakes and even fewer with cockroaches. Yet there is one life form very different from us with which many of us do experience close spiritual links. It is the tree.

Several times each week I begin my day at the Heidelberg Cafe, where I have coffee and a muffin and read a for while before beginning my five mile walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. On Saturday mornings a beautiful young waitress works at Heidelberg. Her name is Heather and she is tall and slender with lovely long light brown hair and a smile that lights up everyone's day. She is studying to be a botanist. A couple of months ago Heather told me a tree story. It reminded me of a tree story of my own. I'd like to share both stories with you. Perhaps they might inspire you to revisit the ideas I presented in the first two paragraphs.

Heather's story began the Christmas after she graduated from high school. Her mom gave her a living redwood tree in a pot to use as a Christmas tree. It was about three feet tall. After Christmas, Heather set the pot outside her house, meaning to transplant the tree into the ground in the spring. During a storm, the tree was blown over on its side and it rolled, pot and all, into a ditch beside the house. Heather saw it there and resolved to climb down into the ditch and retrieve it as soon as possible but with a full time job and part-time college classes, she simply forgot about it for several weeks. The next time Heather glanced into the ditch the tree was totally brown. Since redwood trees are evergreens, she assumed that it was dead. Although she was disappointed, she once again forgot about the tree.

In the spring, Heather noticed that leaves and other debris had accumulated in the ditch. She decided to clean it out and was astonished to find that the redwood tree, still lying on its side in the pot, was totally green and apparently in robust health! She rescued it from the ditch, removed it from the pot, and planted it in the ground. Soon thereafter, she moved away.

Years later Heather received a phone call from an old friend, inviting her to come home for a visit. As they talked, her friend mentioned that Heather's tree had flourished. When she visited her friend earlier this year, Heather was astonished to find that the tree is now forty feet tall! As she gazed upon it, she felt an intense spiritual connection with "her" tree, a genuine feeling of love. Heather recently learned that the town plans to cut the tree down because it is planted on land where the height of trees is restricted and because it threatens to disturb power lines. Having been instrumental in its early success and feeling such a close emotional attachment to it even now, she has decided to intervene. She is in the process of writing to the city government in an attempt to save "her" tree.

When I was a young boy, my dad planted two young maple trees in our back yard. When they were about three or four years old, we had a hurricane. Most hurricanes that begin in the Caribbean slide up the eastern seaboard of the United States but swerve out to sea about half way up the coast. Thus Long Island avoids most of these storms. Occasionally, however, such a storm will hug the coast a little longer than usual and as it makes its right turn, it will pass over the island on its way out to sea. Extremely high winds and torrential rains make for a frightening situation, particularly for people unaccustomed to them.

During this particular storm, the winds were so strong that the maple trees, then about seven feet tall, were bending over such that their tops almost touched the ground. They were threatened with being uprooted or simply snapping in two from the strain. I can clearly recall the image of my dad, lashed by wind and rain and struggling to stay upright in the storm, pounding heavy stakes into the ground and tying each tree securely to its pair of stakes. Even so, before he could stabilize them, each tree split down one side.

After the storm my dad, who had an affinity with plants and could grow just about anything, removed the stakes. Then he brushed tar onto the exposed inner surface of each tree. He said the tar would act as a bandage and allow the trees to heal. Sure enough, they did but for all the remaining years that we lived in that home the side of each tree that had split remained flat, without bark, with the look and feel of bare lumber. The surface of the remainder of each tree, along with its bark, continued to grow, gradually expanding and rotating around so that the exposed flat area of "lumber" gradually became smaller in relation to the overall diameter of the trees.

Childhood was an emotionally tough time for me. Often I felt alone and friendless. But I loved those two maple trees and I felt that they loved me. I spent many summertime hours seated on the grass beneath the shade cast by one or the other, gazing up at its fellow, watching the robins, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, and squirrels that called it home. When no one was around, I often stood by each tree in turn and gave it a long hug. I felt the love being given and the love being received.

Eventually, my folks sold the house. By that time the trees were each fifty feet tall and provided the most wonderful shade for the yard each summer. Over the years I have missed my good friends the maple trees. I have often wondered how they were doing or even if they still lived. Did the new owners love them as much as I had or were they considered simply a nuisance and trimmed back or even chopped down?

Just a few weeks before Heather told me her tree story, I received an unexpected note from a childhood friend. When she was five and I was four, we decided that because we were both only children, we would "adopt" each other. I became her younger brother; she became my older sister. In all the years since, we have continued to think of each other in that way. Although I have not seen her in thirty years, each Christmas and each birthday, there is a card and a note. These days, we even send an occasional E-mail. In her surprise note, my "big sister" told me that a wedding had brought her back to our old neighborhood for the first time in many years. She was taking photos and thought I might like one of my old home. There it was, enclosed with the note.

The picture was taken from the front of the house but towering over it from the back, there were my two friends, now each about sixty feet tall. It is difficult to express in words the powerful feelings of love and joy that suffused my being when I saw that photograph. My friends are well; they are thriving and happy!

If you have never made friends with a tree, or perhaps with any non-human, it might be difficult for you to imagine that I could have such feelings. If such is the case, I assure you that you are missing something wonderful in your life. Everything is alive. Everything is connected. Everything is your brother or sister. We all are one.

If you wonder how you might learn more about such spiritual connections, and even to experience them for yourself, I encourage you to delve more deeply into the Huna knowledge. The various books, tapes, and courses shown on this web site will help. You might even consider a week in paradise with Serge; learning, growing, and meeting some of your brothers and sisters in some of nature's most beautiful spots anywhere. This quest for the subtle hidden wisdom of nature's universe he calls HunaQuest. I hope that you will have the opportunity to experience it.

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