The People of the Wind

Willows are creatures of the sky. Appropriately, if I wander through them and look up, I see the sky through them, broken into small gaps. That is appropriate. The sun is a gap like that. It concentrates the whiteness that it creates.

The wooden lightning of the the willow’s limbs creates darker gaps. “Darkening,” if you like, but since light is considered culturally dominant and the sole source of illumination, yes, lightning.

I stand in a long evolutionary line of tree experience, descended from ancestors who spent millions of years in and among such branches and leaves. The awareness that calls itself “I” was written by skies written by such relative angles and limbs. When such a body moves, the sky moves around it, especially when one is up in the branches. Then the Earth moves too. This relationship of closing and opening and remaining constant in movement, of being hidden, revealed and transformed, is called “seeing”. The word expresses the notion that this relational experience of space (learned from our ancestors, the lemurs and the frogs, perhaps) is entirely located in a human body.

The human mind that would do this to a tree represents the human consciousness that the tree is forced to embody. That’s poverty.

It is linked to the notion that this body expresses its own consciousness rather than something it makes out of ancestral memory — something made by ancestral memory, in other words. We are many who have come here to this point. My mind, or, better said, “my experience of mind,” the collective memory of these ancestors, in all their species, recognizes itself in broken sky of this kind, and in the trees that write it. Mind does so even as it writes it itself, imprinting this present view into the deep channels of human and pre-human memory. Some researchers explain this indigenous knowledge as the way of language, arguing that language rewires the mind in its patterns. Of course it does, yet before I read books, I read trees. When I learned to read books, I read them as trees, just as in this willow I read the stars. Here they are.

I’m trying to speak of the way the mind works, not the way it does in the trained intra-human patterns of social relationships that is called ‘reality’, as great a thing as that is. The words of its social patterns, wood and fluorescence, and limb and “weeping willow” contain imagery and experience. They lay it on a ground of cognitive and ocular processing. That is wise knowledge, and real, but that is not all that we are. Just look at the tree.

That looking shares a space with it. It relates the dark trunk and yellow flowers to the sky in a tree-based way. This relational experience, expressed through the metaphors of “reality”, has come to be called “a sense of a human body in space.” We can also call it spirit. Although spirit is not limited to such willowy experience, it is here: a moment of stepping out of words into a space where mind and body are one with space and don’t isolate it into focus. It’s an entire field, like chess:


That is a human view. It is made from a position on the Earth’s surface, or in the branches of a tree. The willows, however, live in the sky. They are only holding onto the earth so their roots can breathe the sky within it. They carry sweet sugar from the sun down to the creatures of that subterranean sky, and exchange them for minerals from the earth, which they lift up into the air and turn into flowers. This interrelated field of being is called “habitat” and “ecosystem” and “niche.” What an impoverished language for expressing the deep relationships and embedded consciousness of beings who stand at the point of balance between atmospheric and terrestrial skies, just as we who live among them do as their children. And yes, as children of the intersection of Earth and Sky, we are creatures of the wind. When these willow branches sway, we are quickened by it, because that is who we are.

Even when the branches are still.

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