The Tree Whisperer and the Rose

A rose is a twig, a thorn, a leaf, a stem, a seed, seed fluff, bark, root, bud, wood and scent, and now, in early winter, the fruit. This is not, however, a period of fruition. Rather, it is an opening. The opening includes a bird dropping a seed, a seed leaf, a first root and stem and eventually a thorn, and a flower, opening as an invitation, sending its scent across the air to attract a bee or a beetle or a wasp. If a bird didn’t take the answering insect away and the flower was pollinated, the rose answers it back with a seed and the swelling of the stem around the seed. That swelling is the fruit, bright red to call birds out of the midwinter air. It is not that time yet, but in late January, when the fruit is fully ripened by the cold and the warming sun between a new moon and the snows of a full one, a bird will come, eat the fruit and drop the seed, multiplying the opening of the rose. There is no beginning here and no end, only bird and rose calling out and answering together, not with language or intent but with bodies that fit into each other like a leaf into the air. In human terms, that is, in effect, what poetry is, this opening in the world and this opening in the world again. It is not a text.

It is not the following, which is how the Ministry of Education looks on the lives of living things:

Despite the Ministry’s insistence, texts aren’t primary. The text no more starts a process of opening than does an intent. Communication does not begin with a self, a will or a human wish. The body in the world comes first. I, for one, learned to read the world before I learned to read books, and learned to prune fruit trees before I learned to write poetry. When I came to writing poetry, I treated it as a tree, a living thing I was in partnership with. It is not the usual path, but it is a human path. Here’s an example of the first book I read:

I read them as shapes in the darkness of my body and maps of the world. They are. You can read more about these ponderosa pines (for such are those shapes of bark) here, in Ponderosa Pine’s World, and here, in The Tree at the Heart of a People, and even here, in Humans and Pines are One. You can also read about them in my new book The Tree Whisperer, where this whole story is told and the consequences of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s inability to set its settler culture aside and to inhabit the land and people it lays claim to are explored in depth. This matters. Like a rose, it is blossom, bark, stem, wood, root, branch, bud, seed, fruit, and bee in one, and bears, too, which made the apples for us.

It’s a love story. You don’t tell a lover that your love is a text. For that, you’ll get stung. And apples, by the way, are roses. And, yes, these flowers are in the book, and stories of teaching people to learn to prune these trees by recognizing that these wooden bodies and ours are one, and trusting that knowledge. The book demonstrates how.

It is an opening that has been ongoing for 50,000 years, 10,000 of them including humans. I invite you to set this text aside, which is only an invitation and a record of fifty years of opening and join this ongoing opening at a bookstore near you, or here: Touch like this is what we do for ourselves on this Earth. It’s not school.


February 28: How to Escape Slavery to the Book and Thrive in the Wild

Humans, are you feeling trapped by the book? Are you tired of trolls like this?


Well, there’s help. I’m giving a talk about all this at Cottage Bistro in Vancouver on Sunday, February 28, at 5 pm. Here are some slides from the book, with their original captions.


Do you feel that books fill your heads with thoughts and lead you down the garden path to a field choked with thoughts and then locks the gate and you can’t even figure out the darned latch?


Do they not even bring you any sugar cubes anymore?



Well, you’re not alone.

The performance is at Cottage Bistro, at 4470 Main Street in Vancouver. Their phone is 604-876-6138. The show is at 5 p.m., Sunday, February 28.

Here’s a hint of the story I’m going to tell from my new book, the Art of Haying.

Haying Cover

I didn’t find this story. It found me on the Camino through the dark forest of Germany, where I lost my identity right about here …



…was give a temporary identity to ride to keep me going, now that I didn’t have a book to hold me …


… and then met the Afrad (one of “The Chosen Ones”) Khedr when I was completely emptied out. He appears now on the cover of my new book of poems, Two Minds, a series of sufic ghazals, conjuring consciousness out of the winds of the world. That’s what Khedr does. He is the force of the world.


I’ll be talking about him on Sunday. He dropped me in Iceland a few days later.

artofhaying.001 I made new friends.artofhaying.080

They taught me that humans build farms under the cliffs, and keep sheep, and that this is a form of writing but writing in the world, not writing on sheepskin or paper. They taught me that I already knew this, and that there are creatures who are keeping these farms, so that humans keep sheep, because these creatures love sheep. They me that I am a kept thing, within these books. They taught me that I am prey.


And so in Iceland I learned to see the pens and fenced pastures of the book. Here’s a collection of such books, including human house, abandoned turf houses, elf house and farm, and in the background, looking out over the fjord, a troll.


Here’s a young Icelandic reader learning her craft with a machine that is killing her, while gentler machines on display in this agricultural college are calling to her: “Go get a horse, dear!  We can do that for you.” But she doesn’t hear over the machine.


And so I learned the way out of the pastures of the book into a new wildness.

artofhaying.047 I learned old forms of creativity that are still new on Iceland.artofhaying.062

I learned to read the modern creative individual, the kind that Creative Writing programs are designed to craft (somehow, it didn’t take on me) …


… and the lures that book set to draw humans into domesticated fields …


… and I met many people, many ultra modern people, of the book’s fields. This guy in Reykjavik, for instance. Yes, he is a blockhead.

artofhaying.015 The Spirit of Reykjavik, too. Well, actually a film-maker’s Norse curse on the Americanized Reykjavik across the harbour from his encampment.artofhaying.024

And this woman in Seyðisfjörður, after her body set her aside to dry in the sun after a hard day shovelling snow.


I learned that identities can be put on and taken off when they come to the end of their usefulness for the book trolls who run the farm. Here’s an art gallery of human book identities in downtown Reykjavik.


I also learned there is something else that is stronger than that identity and remains when it is stripped away, as mine was on the pilgrimage path through the German Revolution of 1989, and the Celtic Revolution of … well, long before that.


There is a form of creativity that predates the modern age and is stronger than it. It is still alive in Iceland. Khedr led me to it. It’s time to talk about these things. There’s a way out of that field, my friend.


Does that look like you, living on an elf hill, sniffing the grass in my hand, as I stand beneath the sacred rowans of the graveyard that is always beside an elf hill? Yes, it is! Come on, let’s go to Iceland. I’ll give you the key to that gate.