Harbors Springs Festival

“The Language of Trees” by Darcy Dedoes Costello

“The Language of Trees,” by Darcy Dedoes Costello, is a runner-up in a tree-themed essay contest organized by Michigan’s 2017 Harbor Springs Festival of the Book and judged by Josh MacIvor-Andersen.

I wonder if the bobcat will visit.

I have entered nature’s world and left the human behind. Sitting upon a camp chair in a grove of aspens in a woodlot near my home in northern Michigan, the intermingling of wind and leaves above me gives voice to a message I cannot quite grasp. Foreboding washes over me as I glance around to see if the bobcat my neighbor saw in these woods is lurking nearby. Perhaps the fear is simply not feeling fully welcome here.

I ask the wilds around me for permission to be amongst them. It appears the younger trees—not as wise in their knowing—approve. However, the older, wiser trees, having witnessed their brethren felled and silenced over the years on this piece of land, remain skeptical of my motives.

Before me, a family of three aspens are grouped together in a circle, springing from shared roots and spreading out in shelter of one another. These aspens serve as pioneer trees in this forest, paving the way for oaks and beeches known for their longevity, creating a foundation for the long haul.

As trees move through their lifespan, they create a system of sustainability; feeding wildlife while alive and soil after death. This forest’s connections and abilities to provide for the future are playing out all around me. But what tools do we, as humans, have for our own journey? What are we putting in place to help sustain us and our world for future generations?

Perhaps these trees are offering me a discourse and an opportunity to discover their wisdom on living in harmony with the land. I strain my ears to understand the meaning of the aspen’s quaking leaves or the white pine’s whirring needles but still fail to comprehend. I now suspect the foreboding I feel has nothing to do with a bobcat or if I am welcome here, but rather that we humans may never fully learn the language of trees.

Darcy Dedoes Costello lives in northern Michigan where she facilitates nature connection programs, creating opportunities for people to discover their authentic selves as well as a sense of place while spending time in the natural world. Her interest in eco-spirituality has led her to become a master naturalist and to work toward a graduate certificate in spirituality at the Quaker based Earlham School of Religion. Darcy’s favorite ways to explore the wilds is through nature journaling, camping or getting out on the trails with her family and pups.