It is quiet in the forest today. A cold sunshine mirrors the deep puddles on the path and the wind has died down. Big clouds still fill the low horizon. There are torn off branches everywhere, the result of yesterday’s storm. The trees stand by quietly. A single bird makes itself heard. Peter Wohlleben wrote a book about trees: the hidden life of trees. He shows us that forests are not simply a gathering of individual trees that coincidentally stand together. Trees form a community, in many more ways then the little that I know about their reproduction and illnesses. Trees take care of each other, in ways that are unseen by the eye. Through a web of invisible threads; through subterrenean roots, through smells and sounds, through protection from sun and wind and rain. Every species has their specific way that fits their surrounding in which they grow and thrive. Only in communion can they grow to fullness en get everything out of their tree-life. He also shows us that the way we see the forest as an economic or touristic unity is desastrous. Take one tree away from the group and the whole neighbourhood gets ill. Our economic eye unfortunately can’t see that. And it is completely obvlivious to the organic way in which trees from their communities. It is a treasure, this book.
Yesterday I drove home through the storm. We had had a meeting about family business, now that my father is in a home with ever deepening Alzheimer and my mother will have to move to a smaller house shortly, away from the big house where she lived with my father for more then 25 years. The little bit of future they still have had to be discussed and they can hardly oversee the consequences of that anymore. It is a process of farewells and letting go. My mother feels awkward and inept and judged by the caretakers at the home when she visits her husband. She doesn’t feel welcome. My father’s behaviour turns more primary by the day. Old personal issues from their marriage, many times about money and attention, find their way into the open in a harrowing and raw way. Where I can make him feel more easy by giving him a foot massage from time to time, she doesn’t know what to do, her visits are filled with reluctance. And now she has to find this new house all by herself. It hurts to see them struggling like this. We, the children, can only stand around them with our care and attention. Each of us in our own way and sometimes very differently. Here as well the economic value with which we treat our old and sick community members is desastrous. We will decide what is good for them, because we can count and its in the best interest of everyone. It doesn’t do justice to their past, to their nowadays needs. Money doesn’t make a community. Our community as well the forests’ is more then the individuals that it comprises. The invisible threads that bind us and that make our life together fruitful exist here as well. The old who protected us from sun and wind, who sheperded our root system and who lovingly let us grow up in our community, they will one day go, fall down and make space for the younger ones. But the way in which they go also defines the community that we are. It is defined by the organic threads of love and compassion, of patience and attention.
I was looking forward to my meeting at home, so I braved the driving rain and gusty winds that sometimes seemed to push my little car off the motorway. Once I got home, the meeting didn’t seem to happen after all. It turned out well and we had a beautiful evening together. The eagerness of looking forward to something holds the risk of big disappointment. I find it difficult to be patient and compassionate then. I failed many times in the past and these days I am still learning. The invisible threads that bind us are vulnarable and call for great care, compassion and love. They also point us to the courage we need to get everything out of our people-life. And if it would seem that we only do that to please ourselves and some others, by doing this we uphold our whole community.
Peter Wohllebens’ book also makes it clear to me that we are, at this very moment, devastating our world and our community, notwithstanding all good intentions, biological agriculture and social entrepreneurship. We only see the world with the eyes of economy while we still don’t know half of of the value and meaning of everything that we are destroying forgood. If we can’t learn to see the earth as a community that we are bound to by invisible threads, that feeds and protects us and teaches us her wise lessons, in the end we will be left with the films only. We will stand alone, all by ourselves and silent, like the trees in the economic forest.
This is one of those films, to the music of Karl Jenkins, who tells us that the earth is our home, our safe haven and our example. It is so beautyful, the atheists amongst us will forgive the religious notes.
The pussy willows are blossoming. It will always be spring again.