Have you ever listened to the sound of the wind blowing through a pine tree’s needles? I cannot think of anything that is more relaxing and grounding to me. The “shhhhh” of the breeze takes me back every time to the days I spent at a summer camp in the mountains of Crestline, California, which is where I first discovered my deep connection to trees.
I loved this camp for many reasons: the friends, the community, and the expansive nature. Blue jays and woodpeckers were abundant in Crestline, giving life to the forest with their bright hues and busy work sounds. I would watch the birds hopping from one tree to another, finding a respite among the dark green needles as they would flaunt their beauty and work hard to gather their pine nuts. There is something beautiful about how birds are so at home in trees, even if just for a brief moment. One of my most favorite activities at this camp was hiking to Heart Rock, famous for its swimming holes, waterfalls, and—yes—a rock with a natural heart carved in it that was filled with water I knew not to drink. To me, Heart Rock was as close as I could get to Heaven; even at a young age, I thought that if God lived in one place, it would have to be here. There was such an intense feeling of peace—no troubles from the world could reach me here. No mean girls, no boy trouble, no sadness from my parents’ divorce touched me in this spot. I would lie down on a smooth rock near the swimming hole and look up at the tall pine trees and listen to the wind blowing “shhhhhh.” Was the wind talking to me? What was it saying? Was it using the pine needles as its voice? Closing my eyes, I would listen: “All is well. You have nothing to fear; I am here, and you are safe” was the message I would get. I was home; I was connected to nature; we were one.
I have continued this connection with trees into my adulthood. Now, as an avid hiker, I can feel the energy from the trees as I am trekking the trails. If you have never stopped and put your hand on a tree to feel its energy, I ask that you try it. There is a life force in trees that is unmistakable. This life force does not judge and does not exclude; it is there for everyone who seeks it. If you are having a troubled day, go outside and touch a tree. Lie down on the grass and find a different perspective of the strength growing above you and listen—listen for the quiet and the message of the trees; they are always sending messages of encouragement, which is one of the reasons I think birds feel so at home in them.
Recently I have developed a deep admiration for live oaks, which are abundant on the property my husband and I bought a year ago. This property is wild desert brush, with no water. Even under the harshest of conditions, the live oaks thrive; they can withstand the cold and the heat—they are survivors, which is why I feel such a connection to them. I understand what it means to survive in harsh conditions, which is a bond we share. These trees never waiver; they are determined; they are resilient; they are imperturbable. Now every time we visit our property, I stop and ask my favorite oak if I may touch it so that we can share our energy; it always tells me yes. I can feel the strength in the trunk, the strength of a tree that has learned to bend with the wind instead of fighting it, that has learned to thrive even when everything around it has given up. As I stand there with my hand on my new friend, I can hear the breeze blowing through the leaves and know I am home once again.
I am grateful for this connection I have found; it has given me strength in some very dark times. Even now as I am writing this, I can hear the birds chirping happily in the magnolia and pepper trees in my backyard. I see the trees bending in the wind, dancing to a beautiful rhythm. I can hear the breeze sending me messages through the leaves, “All is well. You have nothing to fear; I am here, and you are safe.”
Susan Winslow is an English professor who teaches composition, research writing, critical thinking, and literature in southern California. She received her B.A. in Drama from the University of Southern California, her M.A. in English literature from California State
University at Long Beach, and her EdD in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University. She leads several book clubs, including the DNRS Literary Book Club. She started her journey with DNRS after her perfect storm and has never looked back. She is a traveler, learner, and hiker. Her strong connection with nature and birds has helped her with her healing journey, and she is in the process of writing a children short story series based on her visualizations with her friend Ray the Redhawk.
She may be reached at the following:
Facebook: Susan McCormick Winslow