Trees are living organisms. They draw from their environment, they have life-nourishing fluids circulating within them, and they respire in a constant exchange with the world around them. You are a living organism too and, if you spend time in the company of trees, you have an unavoidable physiological connection with them. Is it much of a leap to allow that trees may affect you emotionally and spiritually, or to consider what extent your temperament might embody characteristics of certain species?
Have you ever spent time in the company of trees and noticed good feelings arising? Of course you have, but did you wonder why? It could be physiological. The Japanese have long known the benefits of “forest bathing,” thanks to the medicinal aerosols that accompany all that oxygen the trees put out. But it might also be psychological.
Similar to the idea of power animals, it’s not unreasonable to think that trees can offer us energy, either by the presence of species which echo our traits, or by those which stretch beyond them. In this first of a ten-part series, consider the Cedar and how much of you is reflected in this tree’s characteristics.
Cedar is dense and mysterious. Its branches are not long but they are many; they can make it difficult to penetrate or even see from where branches originate. A stand of cedar can appear to be a twisted and puzzling sight. Compact and utilitarian, cedar has the same basic appearance regardless of season. While not a strong wood, it nevertheless resists decay and is resilient to environmental stresses.
Cedar is a wise survivor, able to grow in harsh conditions, shallow soils or with scant nutrients. This often results in stunted development but it does keep growing, even though it may not be obvious to look at. In fact, cedars often continue maturing to very old age quietly accumulating many years of experience and exposure to the world around them as they do.
If you have ever been called an “old soul” you may be a cedar; likewise if someone has said you have a tendency to be closed or keep your cards close to your chest. You may also identify with cedar if you have its tendency toward resilience, able to deal with adverse conditions yet keep on growing, even if others cannot see that progress. In winter, cedar boughs get flattened by snow load but they almost always bounce back. Does that sound like you?
If you are a cedar and find yourself in need of a boost, of if you are not a cedar but admire some of its qualities, find yourself a place where these trees can have your back. You won’t need to look far in Grey-Bruce, particularly on the peninsula. A favoured area for me is along the Bruce Trail on the Lion’s Head promontory, especially in the northeast extent, which offers panoramic lookouts to Georgian Bay. Or for something easily accessed, try the Bruce Trail heading northward along the escarpment base from Owen Sound’s Centennial Tower. Either option offers wise cedars ready to support your introspection and growth.
This article is an excerpt taken from the Trees’n’Traits series that was published in Grey-Bruce MOSAIC magazine. To read more articles on this topic please visit their website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neil Baldwin has extensive training, and experience in fields related to human development. He received both his B.Sc. (Psychology) and M.Ed. (Counselling) from University of Toronto and was granted the Canadian Certified Counsellor designation (Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association) in 1991. Neil’s enchantment with the natural world began several decades ago with day hikes on the Bruce Trail and then gradually expanded to backcountry camping and paddling. His connection to nature took a big leap in 2009 when he sold his conventional house (and conventional life!) in the GTA suburbs in favour of an off-grid homestead surrounded by 50 acres of woodland property of which he is a proud owner and honoured guardian (https://offgridretreat.ca). Neil has a particular interest in the synergies found when human development work–whether body, mind or spirit –collaborates with the natural world, sometimes referred to as eco-therapy.