A short short story – Tree Consciousness

Posted on January 2, 2012


I remember this wood.  As a child I ran headlong down its paths, leaping over fallen branches, a graceful thoroughbred brought to life in a child’s imagination.

Later, weaving between the grand oaks, hiding beneath their canopy, I imagined cruel forces searching me out in this enchanted place.  Strands of sunlight probed their search-light beams through my verdant shield; yellow lasers, bleaching everything in their path.

Where once I stood at the feet of giants, now I return searching for a lone fallen tree.


I remember this one. The circles in my trunk mirror the spirals of life, recorded her every move, like the grooves in a well-loved vinyl record.

As a child, her brightly bubbling innocence cleansed everything she touched, where others had sullied the ground we spring from. 

Later she brought heavier, darker emotions, but even then, clothed in terror’s unyielding cloak, she seemed to sense the simplicity of this place. 

She knows I saw and she has come home to be healed, to open the black bag. To leave the comfort of her shadow self and greet the stranger of forgiveness.


I built a secret camp in the grand old oak tree.  A private hideaway sheltered in its branches.  Later it fell, its lifeless trunk a complex pattern of brown and yellow patches, mimicking a spongy rotten corpse.

I reached out, touching its mottled trunk, feeling the life energy, the flow of memories pulse out of it and into me, flooding me with visions of life, even as I gagged at its deathly malodorous musk.

The memories pouring out of it confused me, then.  They were too new, too fresh to entertain.  The way the once transcendent oak had breathed in the world.  The way it had stood for five hundred years, patiently meditating, and was now lying helplessly immobile on the earth, its stories seeping out of it.  Back then I had yearned to gather them up like a pool of fresh water and soak them in through the skin of my palms.

Now I am back, bearing a gift in my black bag, hoping to feel, once again, the gentle certainty of that magnificent tree.

My tree.

How arrogant to call it mine.  But it has felt like that.  As if it was my witness.

It was there watching as he pursued me deeper and deeper, clawing at my back and at last, took me down less than a bough’s reach from safety.  But it could do nothing to prevent that horror in the woods.

Still, it was my witness.  There was a strange comfort in its watchfulness and I remember, after, sobbing into the harsh skin of that still sturdy oak.

That was before our final parting.  Its plunge made way for sunlight’s steady beam, leaving me nowhere to hide from the terror.  Still, I waited a while before leaving the woods, to watch its skin soften, its trunk melt into the earth.

Now, so many years later, I see it did not abandon me.  It was I who walked way.  It stayed – my memories flowing out of it and into the earth. Part of a continuum.  Life from life.


She is searching me out.  I knew she would.  When I fell, she thought it a betrayal.  She returned a few times but did not understand the continuum.  Life from life. 

She is approaching now, coming home.


Here you are old friend.  I have come home.

Your rotting remains speak in a hushed voice filled with grief and loss.  Your broken body whispers of death, of endings, of completing a cycle.  A fallen tree ignored, invisible to visitors who, discovering nature beneath the dark canopy of the forest, are blessed with a renewed connection to life.  They cannot stomach the loss, not just yet.

But there is more to you than decay; a once resplendent oak, transformed into a hectic hotel, new guests arriving every day, your occupants noisily devouring, plundering the unexpected source of nourishment.  Life from life.

And I have not returned alone. In search of release I diverted from the road and trudge wearily back along this familiar path, dragging his carcass in a black bag.  I roll it into the soft depression which once housed the nest of your roots and vibrate with the cleansing heat of retribution. I come to offer you a souvenir of blood and watch it seep with my memories into the dark earth.

I pray for release.

Turning away I pause to wonder if a life in this forest, as a tree, would be a blessing or a curse. Watching, witnessing, without the power to help.  A five hundred year meditation on impermanence.  Knowing, conscious, but rooted to the spot.