Dreamed 9/11/1993 by Chris Wayan
Telepath trees were only discovered recently. It's understandable--they're rare, growing only in mixed groves on Southwestern mountain streams where you get some winter snow but it's still fairly mild. Most known groves are in southwest Utah on some tributary creeks of the Virgin River, though more groves probably exist in the mountains to the north. They don't stand out from the cottonwoods and poplars mixed in with them; you have to sleep among them in near-solitude to discover how different they are.
A certain Southwestern writer invited me to camp in a telepath grove in winter with him. He's tough-minded and serious, a real eco-warrior, and I'm just a city shaman, a flake off the Left Coast... I'm astonished and honored to be let in on the secret. The grove's locations are kept pretty quiet.
Even if I'd known where a grove was, I'd never have come and snow-camped on my own. I'm a Native Californian and I'm nervous in snow. But he knows how, burrows into the snow with a little tent, feeds me warm soup and stories--though not many about the trees. "They won't need introducing."
He says "If you come up in late summer or fall, you might try rafting some of the upper reaches of the Colorado." That's been mostly banned by the Feds as "polluting the watershed": yet another move in their jurisdictional wars with the states and locals. Used to be reformist feds and reactionary locals; from what he says it's mostly the opposite now.
I think at first he's inviting me to join him, and I'm tempted to take him up on it; when I realize he just means he'll tell me how to get on the river, contacts with people etc, I lose interest. I want a buddy to walk me through this stuff: cops and drowning scare me as much as snow.
A red sundown, and it's early to bed. The longer to dream with you, my dear.
I dream... of tree-spirits, dryads. If they were human I'd call them beautiful young girls, delicate and flowing, fusing into the treelimbs and snowdrifts... Charmers. But I know that nature spirits often mirror your desires and expectations. Books on magic warn about projecting too much humanity on creatures that aren't even animals, don't share any of our instincts or emotions really. Better to fall in love with a ghost or your own reflection--more human. So the legends say. I'm in danger already, for I'm single and they're attractive and playful, these spirits in my dream.
But they pick up my thought and object to it! "The people who wrote those books never dreamed with us! We try to appear in shapes that feel good, sure. Who doesn't?"
"I'm not a mirror, I'm a tree!" says another. "Why would you mistrust us for liking you, or being like you?"
"I have to be honest" I say. "I mistrusted you because I learned about life secondhand, so I mistrust my own perceptions and feelings. Nothing personal! Your auras feel like... well, very bright and well-read but innocent small-town girls, eager for news of the big world; and your innocence is strength too, it's your heartwood: you know what basic needs are, you're trees, you stay focused on what feeds and pleases you. But I expected elementals, spirits with no knowledge of embodied life at all..."
"We like you because we you make sense to us: you've led a life a bit like ours. Most humans aren't very telepathic except around us. But you're a telepathic dreamer too, you don't need us to share dreams, a lot of your life's happiest and saddest times came in dreams. And your environmental illness limits your travel, and how much you can do with humans. You're really a vegetable" and the tree starts to giggle.
"Which is not a compliment she gives to many walkers!" adds the other.
The hell with the books: they have genuine thoughts and feelings; dreams are deep teachers. They've developed true minds, even individual characters--maybe light and dreamy by American standards, since they "avoid the wear and tear of actual existence" (James Branch Cabell). But they do exist. A different way.
"Yeah" says a tree. "It's a blessing sometimes--Harvey Pekar camped out here, he showed us Cleveland in his dreams. It was fascinating, but then, we don't have to work there! Do all writers have to have yucky day jobs?"
"Because anyone who camps under a telepath tree shares dreams with us all night, we do know a lot about people--too much to remain pure tree."
"We like animal joys--so exotic!"
"Dancing, socializing, touch and sex--"
"Emotions changing in minutes--even seconds!"
"Food and spices and perfumes."
"Travel, making things."
"Music and art. And stories, we love stories."
So I show them places I've been, especially dreamworlds, and they explore life as a shaman with me, giving me all the love and petting and affection I need in return, seeing my loneliness very simply, as "a nutrient shortage". True? Maybe! I haven't met anyone who gave me what I needed--taking the initiative, petting and warmth and reassurance that I'm sexy and lovable. I've condemned myself for self-denial, but who says I deny myself? Have I been offered what I want? Without toxins mixed in?
"The girls who seem right but make you shy, or the ones who you're comfortable with but they're unavailable--you're a tool user, of course you expect you have to change them, or yourself. Now I" said the blackhaired girl "am a tree. And I don't think like that. I like to reproduce--when my seeds get pollinated, it feels as nice as when you pollinate--but I can't make that happen. Has to be the right wind, the right pollens, the right season... If it's not right, I have to wait. You're waiting. So, conditions or mates aren't right. You sense when it is! You love me, you fertilized me wonderfully, even though those books had told you we were seducti? No, succubi? Oh, they 'suck you, bye!' What a word! I think I prefer wannabees. Humming and fertilizing with sweet desire. Mmm, sexy wannabees."
This is better advice than I've gotten from any human therapist. If they're right, then anyone I'm uncomfortable with is just plain wrong for me--it's not shyness but a nutrient shortage! Just keep looking for the missing nutrient.
I wake in the morning amazed. I expected they'd be trees whose life experiences any dreamer, even a materialist, could easily access--but basically trees, passive. Rooted libraries. I'm not great with trees, too impatient (also allergic to a lot of them), but I was looking forward to feeling photosynthesis. We never even got around to it, though it seeped through the edges, a wonderful Buddhist calm about where energy comes from--while even the word "energy" to an animal like me implies motion, an edgy excitement, and under it all, the fear of starvation.
But I never expected trees to be curious, let alone make sense of my animal existence, or take initiative, or be so playful or sexy or intelligent or loving--so HUMAN, and without losing their treeish rootedness and good sense either. All from sharing human dreams! I wonder if all trees have the same ability to learn, just few opportunities...
At breakfast, as I mix up a cup of yeast broth for my guide to try, he jokes "The only thing is, people say I'm the foremost authority on telepath trees, but... I just can't seem to make a buck off it."
"What about all them workshops for Lynn Andrews followers? What about your weekend camps for shamans?"
"Yeah, you'd think I'd make a pile off a goldmine like this. Best little astral whorehouse in Nevada."
I was teasing; those who know about the trees have been protective and discreet, though there really are a few secret workshops for deep ecos and a few writers. No money involved of course, the trees wouldn't stand for it. Trees are idealistic.
So does he farm like Wendell Berry? Or work some day job? I know he can only come up here regularly during the slow season.
He invites me to come camp again soon and I say yes.
"How about next summer?"
"No, I'm committed to camping in the redwoods this summer. I think I want to alternate. Next winter?"
He nods, a little disappointed, but acknowledging that as a Californian I want to support my own region's ecospirituality. I say "I know they're not telepathic, but still, they are... special." He nods again. It's true, everyone senses it, but it's hard to spell out, really. Big trees? So? Is size all it is? I am tempted to come here instead, I like the telepath trees better, but I think I need what the redwoods teach me too. What? Solitude, quiet? Age, a long view? I can't explain it, as I can for the telepath trees. Of course they're social, they're minds; their worth is expressible because words ARE social, are between people's minds. Redwoods' worth is not as people, not social--redwoods don't fit our words as easily.
My hypnotherapist asked me in my first trance session about my "fear of intimacy" as if intimacy was my greatest unmet need. The telepath trees certainly supplied it, and I was happy. But then... there are the redwoods. An equally deep but less expressible need for... something less namable.
And the story should end there, but the dream didn't. Not quite.
We pack up and leave the grove and hike out to the road. The minute we reach his truck, three county land-use agency officers drive up in a Jeep and bust my friend the writer. Or are they city cops? They say they're just following the orders of an agency that claims he's violating some administrative directive, either on his farm or up here. But they've put out about seven new policies in the last year all contradicting each other, and nobody's in full compliance, or could ever be. It's political and we all know it.
They let me go. But him... they want him. He knows too much.
And the story shouldn't end there, but the dream did. I think I know why. Because that's where America's ended up. Tree-savers get arrested. Tree-killers get rich.
This dream is dedicated to the trees being slaughtered around the world as I write, especially the olive groves of Palestine being bulldozed by the Israeli Army (for being bad, criminal, Muslim trees), and Luna, Julia Butterfly's tree, who was attacked with a chainsaw last week (for being a celebrity, I guess, or to hurt its human friends. It sure won't make loggers any new friends, or help find them jobs...)
Oh, and hello to my fellow shaman Mark Varitz, who's training in redwood-sitting, as I write... as I write in a wood-frame but very old house, looking out at the neighbors' Christmas displays. Our house lacks the Christmas spirit. We have no cut-down christmas tree corpse. Because what if trees did that to us? Chop your feet off, stick you in the living room with lighbulbs up your butt, blink blink blink for a week... then out to die in the gutter.
Pardon my propaganda, but "do unto others", people!
And merry Christmas to you, too.
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