As I arise I put my dream wandering behind and close off the doors to deeper perception and quantum drift. I lock down into the reality of my physical surroundings and return to habitual behavior. Faint echos of the night’s expanded world still bounce around in my mind as I light the stove and turn on the kettle. I step outside with bare feet to take a leak and can see the lights from the miner’s cars zooming across the bridge 1000 feet away. By the time I press the coffee and pour the dark muddy brew steaming into my cup, I can hear the “BEEP – BEEP – BEEP” of the heavy machinery faint in the distance. Even out in the deep forest there is human industry ever plugging away. As the light grows the silhouettes of the trees outline the curve of the hill behind the schoolhouse where we have spent the last 8 years. The sun will rise and follow the contour of the ridge through the day. In the depths of winter on this chilly north side sometimes the sun will never make it out from behind the trees until late in the afternoon. There is a brighter future on the horizon for us sun-loving happy people, as the house we are building is directly across the creek 200 vertical feet up on the south facing slope. It is a continual focus that gives direction and intention to our perspective.
Outside of our multi-windowed dwelling the creeks on both sides are flowing beneath the bleached sycamore boughs. I often consider their branching habits and think of the fractal divisions and patterns that life uses to execute its functions. After looking at them long enough I start to think not about the branches themselves but the space between the branches. The light that comes through, the energy that is harnessed by living sentient beings and turned into wood, flesh, and stone. There is a knowledge that has always been understood by indigenous people and is just now being “discovered” by science that trees have intelligence and ancestral knowledge that is passed down to each new generation. Through symbiotic relationships with fungal mycelium, neural networks are formed that send information and nutrients throughout the community of roots. The same kind of cells that are in the human mind are found under the ground and researchers are beginning to understand that the root structure of trees are similar to brains in people and animals. Each individual tree has its own unique way of perceiving the world and interacting with its environment. It is easy to take it for granted because trees don’t communicate in a way that is easy for humans to understand.
Trees are constantly giving. There is a gift-economy in the forest that is difficult for modern humans to understand. Forests hold some of the highest and most delicate forms of culture. There is an inter-species exchange that highly values diversity. When I encounter other animals in the forest and they run away from me I can sense not just fear of an oppressive species but also frustration at being interrupted in their work. Animal’s and plant’s cultural sensibilities are sharply developed and are aware that the work they do doesn’t solely benefit themselves. Trees are highly aware that their work involves creating for others without expectation of direct compensation. They have a relationship with their community that is deeper and more subtly developed that will outlast our own.
As I hold myself upright and prepare myself for my daily work, I stretch my body and take inspiration from the structure of my arboreal relations. Their limbs are constantly held high. They are relaxed into their posture that is constantly at work creating food and habitat for the forest community around them. Not to mention they are busy creating oxygen from biological waste and cleansing the air. After individual trees fall they continue to offer information to future generations of trees through their roots. They also return nutrients to the soil for all life to benefit. As they stand tall and the light passes through their branches, the shape of their leaves will be defined by the deep spectrum of orange through purple of the rising sun. When I look up, I see patterns that are echoed in ancient symbolism created by our ancestors.
These visual interpretations of forest culture and my indegenous heritage are the inspiration for the designs incised on my ceramic vessels. My ceramic artwork is on display at Turtle Earth Healing and Arts 112 W. Main in Steelville. Come and see the work and check out the classes and workshops being offered throughout the winter. We will also be offering several events throughout the year. Check out Turtle Earth on Facebook to find out about our events.