Trees are wisdom keepers. They stand in a single place on the earth’s surface and faithfully witness the unfolding of time. Like people, trees observe their surroundings, root where welcomed, reach toward nourishment, and hold close where limited. They form scar tissue when wounded and can adapt to change. Examining the lives of trees offers critical insights for human wellbeing and survival, showing us when life thrives and falters.
“Witness tree” is an expression used for trees that mark boundaries, act as signposts and directionals, or witness key events in history and local culture – celebratory and tragic. Trees also witness the in-between moments that are precious and informative in their own right. Through this collaborative witnessing of trees and people, we hope to foster a world that is richer and more sustainable for both.
My dear friends Rebecca Power, John Steines, and I partnered over a year ago to create Witness Tree, an art exhibit at Commonwealth Gallery in Madison, WI – with the two of them as artists (along with many others they invited) and me serving as facilitator of group activities and community conversations. The above is our statement of purpose, and below is a picture of our world tree gallery where we gathered for circles of story, poetry, meditation, conversation, and leaf-making.
More recently Rebecca and John joined with other tree-minded artists in a fabulous follow up Tree of Life art exhibit at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. Again, my role was to support the artists by facilitating a community conversation at the gallery to draw people into a more intentional experience of the Tree of Life exhibit. To kick of the conversation, we guided participants to reflect on their experience of the art and then to share in single words on slips of paper how the art inspired their personal connection with trees and the Tree of Life as metaphor for the connectivity of all living things.
We then collected the words to create a word cloud as a collective representation of everyone’s experience of the Tree of Life art. Perhaps you can imagine the diversity of art in the exhibit through this “reverse experience” of viewing the visitor’s words rather than the works of art themselves.
As you view the trees in your home place over the next days and weeks, you might collect your own words of response and create a word cloud as an alternative, or in addition, to a journal. You can create your own word cloud with the tree or other shapes at http://www.tagxedo.com/
In alliance with the trees,
Credits: Thanks to Math Heinzel for the Witness Tree panorama, Amy Fenn for creating the word cloud, and the many others who contributed to the art exhibits and associated programming.