• Jane Stewart

"You are not a tree. If you don't like where you are, move."

I woke this morning after a very strange and convoluted dream and the phrase above just popped into my head. It’s been on my mind all morning.

I’ve used it on Facebook in the past but haven’t thought of it for a long time.

It may seem trite at first because surely it’s ok for trees, they don’t have to make decisions, do they? They stand majestic like those specimen trees in a park, or they grow together to form beautiful woodland. Trees are just there.

For humans though, it’s much more complicated. Moving, when we feel comfortable - and often even when we don’t feel particularly comfortable where we are - is sometimes easier said than done. We like to put down roots so that we feel safe and grounded and have a sense of belonging to something bigger than just us.

Many meditations use visualisation techniques in woodlands where we imagine some form of roots extending from our feet into the ground. Sometimes as thick and fibrous as real tree roots or as fine as delicate as golden threads. This visualisation helps that sense of connection.

So, when we're faced with tough choices - whether to make a move or do nothing - it just feels easier to stay put, leaning into any incoming storms and hoping our own root system will hold fast.

Trees have been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks, prompted by the loss of far too many in our garden during January’s storm Corrie; Scots Pines and birch ripped from the ground and roots left exposed and ugly, a reminder to us of what they once were, and now, never again to be home or shelter to the birds, insects and red squirrels that made use of them.

And every time I leave the devastation of the garden I’m reminded of it again - so many grand and tall trees in our village left strewn around like a spilled box of matchsticks.

Why do we find it so upsetting to lose the trees when there is always much more damage caused during a storm? Why does the loss of a tree feel almost personal to us?

I’m sure it’s because of the connection we have had throughout our history. We talk about budding friendships, branching out, putting down roots, pruning the deadwood, the fruits of our labour; so many ways we’re interconnected even through our vocabulary.

We use the wood as fuel, for building, we eat the fruits and bark. They are part of our life.

Obviously, I can’t say how long we’ve had this connection, but the earliest cave pictures of trees are in Brazil from around 15,000 years ago (when humans first colonised South America) and show men surrounding and worshipping a tree. There aren’t many pictures of men and plants in cave art, and it’s thought that it’s because the paintings were usually representing part of a hunting ritual. It doesn’t mean that humans were indifferent to trees before this time, just that they didn’t paint them! The history of many cultures and religions in the world involve the sacred symbolism of the tree and still embrace this.

Associations go as far as immortality or the afterlife, however the representation we’re probably most familiar with is the Tree of Life.

It features as a religious symbol in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and also as a pagan symbol in many cultures including German, Norse and Celtic mythology.

Here in the Highlands, we have superstitions and folklore connected to every species, the most commonly known being the rowan tree planted next to the door to drive away witches. The red of the berries was considered lucky and the tree itself offered protection so should never be cut down.

When we read down the list of the qualities associated with this sacred symbol of life, the simple tree, it’s hardly surprising that they are such an integral part of culture and our sense of belonging:





Peace and calm

Loss and Renewal



Circle of Life

There will be more, but if we can place such a hugely positive set of virtues on something that cannot move, then what can we learn from it?

Look at the last one on the list, the circle of life. It takes me right back to the beginning again.

What it means to be stuck, the effects of loss and where to go next.

Yes, the loss of a tree (or lots of trees) is sad.

Sometimes though, you'll come across a tree that has fallen and as it lies on its side several of the branches start to grow as new trees in their own right. It looks a bit strange, but the tree still has enough connection with the Earth to support this new growth. At other times new shoots can appear from a sawn tree stump.

This regeneration is uplifting and I’m looking forward to new growth on the elder trees in the spring, which is definitely going to happen. Fresh shoots will bring new flowers and fruit this year.

The space left by one of the fallen trees will give my greenhouse and veg raised beds more sunlight and I’ll be able to bring on more flowers and veg in there. Maybe the tomatoes will finally ripen!

There’s now even space to plant a couple of flowering and fruiting trees to build biodiversity in the garden and add spring and autumn colour.

A friend and neighbour of mine commented that she also has more light reaching the back of her house and a view for the very first time.

And that’s the thing that’s struck me most.

Now that this has happened, it’s opened up more views and it’s brighter, allowing me to make decisions that I wouldn’t have considered or that wouldn’t have been possible before the storm.

We have ideas for how to use some of the branches for garden structures and for twiggy pea sticks.

The birds are still here, and the squirrels chase each other up and down other trees.

It’s an important part of our moving on to acknowledge the good that’s come from something we never wanted to have happen.

And remember the saying from above?

You are not a tree.

If you don't like where you are, move.

The choice was taken away for some of our trees simply because they couldn’t move. When the wind became too strong, they had nowhere to go. They were, in fact, unstable.

Perhaps it does feel easier to stay put, to be comfortable in your discomfort. But moving can be liberating and it can turn out to be the safe option before a storm ever comes to threaten.

Jane Stewart

Mind over Matter Scotland

Tel : 07801 357461



The Thrive Hub:

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All