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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

If a Tree Falls in the Forest

Marya of the Wood

Moss and Tree Stump, CC0
Moss and Tree Stump, CC0

If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Yes. For there to be no sound would be robbing the tree of its authenticity. It is real; it existed; why would it not make a sound?

Have you heard thousands of trees being cut and falling to the ground? Until you have, you may still consider that question.

There are many ways to ponder this debate. I have thought about it throughout the years, but not as much as I have during the past year. In fact, it will be three years since I attended the first meeting regarding the local trees and their demise. I continue to follow the bulletins, but it is out of my reach, becoming new questions: If I witness the death of a thousand trees, did it really happen? Does it matter?

It is time to stand up and take notice. Reaching back to my childhood, I have honored my tree connection, for they are intelligent, wise beings. Please take note of that. Now, with the colossal tree loss at hand, if they had feet, they would, indeed, flee.

Yes, they move when the environment dictates, according to natural cycles and seasons. As you can imagine, it takes many years. And it is nothing like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz. When the tree-killing monsters come after them with their colossal blades, the trees fall victim—end of story.

Here, in my immediate surroundings, the past year has proven to be all about trees. I live amongst and spend a great deal of time in the forest. I am Marya of the Wood. As I have expressed for years, trees are my people.

When faced with the plan to clear a small pine grove here—a minimal operation with an authentic purpose—I struggled with the idea. One of my preferred, all-time approaches to all life, past, present, and future, is steeped in acknowledgment. Therefore, I thought it essential to witness the felling of the trees.

As a sensitive being, I perceived each tree when it fell to the ground. I said a silent prayer, thanking it for sacrificing its life and its entire community and family to make way for gardens and fruit trees. It was difficult. The air was thick with the scent of pine—sweet, pungent, haunting—clinging to my all, imprinting on the deepest part of me lest I forget.

The space left in the center of the once grand and thriving magical grove had become a vacuum. My heart was full to overflowing when the great white pines, once tall and swaying in the wind, were loaded onto the logging trucks. I stood numb and regretful and watched them leave the property.

The sun burst through remnants of green needles, clusters still sparking with morning dew, bidding farewell to their remaining brothers and sisters keeping guard around the perimeter.

Even the familiar lament of an unseen cardinal wasn’t enough to bring relief as I gazed upon the broken bones scattered about the newborn field. When I no longer had access to the cool shade, I regretted that I had sung my praises silently. I would sing to the glorious trees from that day forward, greeting them each new morn.

A piece of my heart was severed at the sound of the first tree falling from the axe’s deadly blow. Gone were the glimmering shadows impossible to recall in the field of dignified stumps before they, too, were taken.

All dreams break apart while merging ghosts—witnesses of years past—are taken away or become mere dust. Will we remember them? —memories of gradual growth, tree secrets whispering beneath a moonlit night. Those present are made whole.

A Higher Power created you and me in the spirit of truth and love; this is also true for the tree. Our breath gives life to the tree; without pause, it returns the gift.

After the last trees departed and the stumps adequately disposed of, I faced the world without the great white pines. For those unaware, many helpful healing plants rush to the crime scene to balance and heal the disturbed soil. As a wildcraft herbalist, this was a dream come true. I expressed much gratitude for the land and the volunteers for their generous offerings. I created a medicine wheel garden and planted organic vegetables, berries, and fruit trees, spending countless hours in the vacant grove.

The first year following their death, the trees around the perimeter groaned, calling for their brothers and sisters. It resembled the song of a whale—the loudest creaking of trees I have ever witnessed. Stunned, I made my way to the heart of the former grove and offered song and prayer. I stated that they were not in danger. It was time for healing and growing, a time for the gardens, fruit trees, and berries to thrive. It would also invite Our Mother to express Herself in wild plants—new growth.

Because the remaining trees had been sheltered by the others, suddenly, they were at the front lines. The light, wind, insects, and elements had shifted. They shifted into survival mode.

During the latter part of the summer, there have been many significant clear-cutting operations in my surroundings. I have sensitive hearing, which was helpful during my years as a professional musician. Still, now during these times, it is challenging. For months, I wake up to the sound of heavy tree-killing equipment nearby. Of course, there is nothing I can do about it. People have the right to clear their land.

There is no relief. I have avoided spending time outdoors, which is the opposite of my usual activities. I wear earbuds playing ambient music and sleep with white noise and earplugs to be awakened by the sounds of tree-cutting equipment.

I honored my youthful experience, my childhood tree that still stands at the edge of the field, in the title of my recent book, Down from the Tree. I comprehend the magical world viewed while perched high in its crown.

I send you all my best. Please enjoy the short video below.

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