Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us About Belonging and Life

Mowich

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Dec 25, 2005
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“When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”​

I woke up this morning to discover a tiny birch tree rising amidst my city quasi-garden, having overcome unthinkable odds to float its seed over heaps of concrete and glass, and begin a life in a meager oasis of soil. And I thought, my god*, what a miracle. What magic. What a reminder that life does not await permission to be lived.

This little wonder reminded me of a beautiful passage by Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877–August 9, 1962) — one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read — from his 1920 collection of fragments, Wandering: Notes and Sketches (public library).
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.
 

Mowich

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i have always liked the various kinds maple trees. if i could i would spread the various kinds of maple seeds all over the world. :) :cool:
Maples are gorgeous trees, spammie. The majority of trees on my property are Douglas Fir and several of them are over a hundred years old. I like to go out and hug them from time to time. :) I also have Paper Birch, Cottowood and Aspen with a few Engelmann Spruce. One of the interesting things I found about the trees that share their lives with me is that Paper Birch excretes an enzyme which effectively protects the Firs from root rot which is somewhat prevalent in our area. Cool, eh.
 
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Jinentonix

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Here's what I learned about trees; They know their own offspring. An adult tree will help to supply and regulate water and nutrients to any saplings around it, regardless of the species. But in times when water levels are low or even during a drought, they will cut off all the saplings except their own. And I don't mean of their own species, I mean their own specific offspring. It seems that some plants at least have some kind of rudimentary intelligence.

When an Acacia tree is being overgrazed it increases it's production of tannins to sour the leaves. What's truly amazing though is it will send a chemical signal to any other Acacia trees nearby that basically tells them there's a greedy grazer hanging around and they need to increase their tannin production as well.

I love trees. They're nature's air conditioner.
 
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Mowich

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Here's what I learned about trees; They know their own offspring. An adult tree will help to supply and regulate water and nutrients to any saplings around it, regardless of the species. But in times when water levels are low or even during a drought, they will cut off all the saplings except their own. And I don't mean of their own species, I mean their own specific offspring. It seems that some plants at least have some kind of rudimentary intelligence.

When an Acacia tree is being overgrazed it increases it's production of tannins to sour the leaves. What's truly amazing though is it will send a chemical signal to any other Acacia trees nearby that basically tells them there's a greedy grazer hanging around and they need to increase their tannin production as well.

I love trees. They're nature's air conditioner.
I watched a documentary awhile ago about the ability of Acacia trees to alert their neighbors by sending out a chemical signature - truly amazing.

My love for trees was passed down to me by my Dad. I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Regina and every tree on the property was planted either by my Grandfather and Granduncle when they were raising Jersey's and Guernsey's on what was then a dairy farm, or by my Dad when he took over management after the farm had been transitioned into growing grain crops. From the time I was little I would accompany my Dad to the Indian Head Experimental farm so we could check out all the new species on offer. I spent many a summer's eve watering all our new plantings. Since that time, no matter where I have lived, I planted trees. It gives me great joy to go back and visit them from time to time and see how well they flourished. At my current abode, the Pine I planted when it was but a few inches tall now rises to 26 feet. Over the years, I've planted a number of different species learning much about their specific characteristics over the years.
 
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petros

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Sadly, the PFRA and the shelter belt saplings they grew are gone. The Indian Head facility was sold off the FNs for next to nothing.
 

Mowich

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Sadly, the PFRA and the shelter belt saplings they grew are gone. The Indian Head facility was sold off the FNs for next to nothing.
Did the FNs close it down? If I remember correctly, Dad also went there to check out the latest strains of wheat and barley.
 

petros

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Its lone gone. It's now "Sovereign Rez land". They everything but gross trees or breed seed.

They do grow weed for Omagaki though.
 
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Aetheric

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Jul 9, 2020
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i too enjoy the majesty of the giants, and the planting and nurturing of a tree
big lonely doug (see pic below, look at the person at the foot of the tree) by port renfrew on vancouver island is 230' feet tall,
close by is the 'red creek tree' which stands at 242' tall, and the red cedar named the 'cheewhat giant' has been estimated to contain about 450 cubic meters of volume (or 450 telephone poles)
a trip to vancouver island should include a 'big tee' portion
(but what if these 'giants' are merely the saplings...)

for me, it is the trees of the pome fruits (apples/pears/quinces/medlars/loquats, saskatoons are also pome fruits but more of a proper multi-stem bush)
a properly pruned flowering/fruiting pome is very nice

why do people believe that talking to your plants/trees makes for better growth when scientists cannot reproduce the results in their lab/test fields?
resonance/vibration i think is one possibility, but also people who talk to their plants develop a closer relationship with them
that leads to different caring (maybe greater carefulness would be a better explanation), but also something intangible and un-measureable
akin to the frozen water experiments done by Masaru Emoto


Contemplate how the trees are covered with green leaves and bear fruit.
And understand, in respect of everything, and perceive how He Who Lives Forever made all these things for you. Enoch 5.1

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Henry David Thoreau
 

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