Poetrees manifesto

Poetrees manifesto

This video is a love letter to humans and trees. It is the simplest, truest expression my heart could come up with. This captures exactly what drove me to produce the Poetrees project – an invitation to create more joy in the world through the magic of our relationships with trees.

When I ask people to write a poem they often feel intimidated but for me poetry is just words from the heart.  Here are thoughts from 20 beautiful poets on the meaning of poetry. I love them all but this one from Salvatore Quasimodo stands out:

Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.

This is the bridge I hope to build with Poetrees from one human to another so that no-one need feel strange or alone in the depth of feeling they hold towards a tree.

Please share it with your networks either from YouTube: https://youtu.be/YkX0HgkNueE  or from the Poetrees Facebook page: www.facebook.com/melbournepoetrees

Poetrees

The Poetrees seed has been lurking in the dark for over three months. We’ve been gently watering it with encouraging words, fertilizing it with our creative insights and learning from our mistakes. Over the past week a small tendril has been reaching for the sun as we test the prototype and make sure it’s all ready for your poetic words of tree love.

For those who are new to the project, Poetrees is a playful community arts offering that explores our connection with trees. Users will be able to submit a poem and a tree to the interactive map on our website so that others can visit the tree and read the poem.

I’m excited to let you know that after hours and hours of hard work from the team, the Poetrees website is almost ready to burst into the daylight!

We’ve done everything we can to make a joyful container for your tree-loving words. Next week it will be your turn to step out of the shade and share your poetree with the world.

We’re not leaving you out on a limb though! The important task of composing poems needn’t be carried out alone. We have prepared a series of poem seeding workshops throughout the Sustainable Living Festival to help you tend to your creative garden.

The one hour workshops will comprise a tree meditation and some simple writing exercises to help the creative sap rise through your limbs, onto the page and up to the electronic mycelial network (aka the internet).

Come to one or come to all three! Commune with trees and write poetry! Invite your friends and family, spread the tree love across our city. #inmelbcity #SLFAus #poetrees

Birrarung Mar, 13 Feb, 2pm
Flagstaff Gardens, 18 Feb, 5.30pm
Carlton Gardens, 21 Feb, 2pm

Elegy for a row of poplars

Elegy for a row of poplars

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I understand the needs of civic offices
I know a dying tree can drop a branch
Or topple whole upon some hapless passer by
But my heart grieves for your passing.

You and your siblings were guardians of this street
Every morning you witnessed my passing
Along with so many other busy humans.

Tenderly you gave us shade
Releasing the breath of life
Even as you drank in ours
My heart is humbled by your generosity.

I hope in death you have the opportunity
To pass on your precious nutrients
That your spirit may live on through other beings.

I hope the one who cut you down
Opened their heart to your glory
And gave thanks for your magnificent life
As I do.

Letters to trees

I recently discovered that you can write letters to trees within the City of Melbourne. I work near the CBD so I have a number of favourite trees that I pass by most days.

To a colonnade of Deodar:

Hello my darlings, the flower and garden show is on again and so for several weeks I have to walk around the park and miss my morning guard of honour. I miss you all terribly. When I walk under the vaulted ceiling of your mighty branches my inner voice is hushed, I feel grounded and centred by your deep presence. In a matter of moments I pass you by but it’s only when I am denied this ritual that I realise the importance of the way you bookend my day.

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To a Moreton Bay Fig (pictured):

I sat among your roots and played ukulele for you the other day. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Your roots make an excellent place to sit.

To the grandma tree (unsent as it’s not in the City of Melbourne):

I long to lay my spine against your wide trunk again.

Sadly none of the trees have written back to me but I remain hopeful. If anyone from the City of Melbourne happens to be reading this post, I would love to volunteer my services to respond on behalf of the trees near my work.

Tributaries

I haven’t written for a little while because I’ve been busy planning an adventure. Ruth over at Inscendence put out a call for women to join a wild nature retreat and vision quest and, since I was looking to justify a trip to Portland a week later for World Domination Summit, I said ‘I’m in.’ I was hoping to make the Back Creek Project happen as soon as I get back but that doesn’t feel very sensible now. I’ve had some good discussions with a few people at council, the local friends group and the Wurundjeri Council but I think it’s worth letting it gestate a little.

In the meantime here are some photos from a bit of reconnaisance I did with a friend of the Denman St portion of the creek:

Back Creek heading into a tunnel IMAG0830

I’ve also been thinking about some of the ideas that precipitated this project, apart from Maya’s beautiful book and wanted to share some with you.

Firstly the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, traditional owners of the land on which I live and work. I have participated in Indigenous history walks in the Botanical Gardens and along the Yarra (covered elsewhere also). Both taught me to see the living history beneath the concrete (as Tiddas so eloquently put it). This insight continues to shape the way I see and relate to the land I pass through every day and forms the backbone of a project like this.
When I was doing my Masters I came across Freya Mathews, her books Reinhabiting Reality and For love of matter challenged me to think differently about where I live. She set a powerful example of living locally and reinscribing urban environments with the sacred.
Dr Peter Cock of Moora Moora taught Social and Sacred Ecology at Monash University. I went on an overnight solo and my spirit animal was a leech. It seemed pretty mundane at the time but when I returned to the city it was wild to think that I had made a blood sacrifice to the bush.
My gratitude must also go to the Grandmother Gum, musk lorikeets, tawny frogmouth, magpies and ravens, ring tail possums, hardenbergia violacea, all these creatures taught me to open my heart, to love the more-than-human. The small, every day visitations that act as a gateway to the enormous reality of our interdependence.

Everyday rituals

Last weekend I went to the second half of an Ecopsychology two day workshop. The main presenters were Tigrilla from Damanhur and Geoff Berry (formerly Cities of Light and now The Play of Light). It was a lovely gathering of passionate individuals and the experimental activities have sparked all sorts of ideas about deepening our connection with nature and each other. One of the highlights was Geoff’s urban songlines activity, which has so much potential for re-inscribing human communities into the land.

Water rippling in the sun, Merri Creek

I particularly enjoyed hearing about the different things people do every day to connect with nature. Tigrilla mentioned that at Damanhur (an ecospiritual community in Northern Italy) every household has a greeting tree. There is a custom of presenting oneself to this tree by placing your forehead against it before you go into the house. Another woman shared a similar ritual where she spends time with a tree in front of her own home in order to leave behind the stress, worry or irritation of the day before greeting her housemates.

Someone else shared Min Mia‘s concept of carrying your ‘poopy pack’ around and collecting ‘shit’ from people, if you don’t give your ‘poopy pack’ to a tree then you are likely to throw it at someone you love. This sparked an interesting conversation about whether giving our cares and worries to the trees is akin to composting them, some felt that it necessary to finish with gratitude to avoid viewing trees as some kind of energetic dumping ground.  Ideally we wouldn’t view our ‘negative’ emotions as waste but compost, an opportunity to learn and grow. I wonder if the act of giving those energies to a tree actually involves acknowledging and embracing the feeling paralleling mindfulness exercises like DROPS (don’t resist or push, soften). Trees, like all nonhuman nature, are wonderfully free of judgement.

It was wonderfully affirming, like when I discovered the tree project, to find that so many people share my arboreal affinities.

Big shout out to Joe and Mira and the Melbourne Evolver Network for putting the weekend together!

The calling

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It has been a really difficult month but there have been some amazing highlights.  One of them was reading this poem at Mother Tongue. It has served as something of an affirmation or a mantra, these words remind me of who I want to be and who I already am. I offer them to you because the more I share these words, the more I strengthen my commitment to this vision and if I’m really lucky maybe you will find solace in them too.

I was called in the middle of dancing
In the pause between the first wave and the second
Between the inbreath and the outbreath

The voice of the earth pulled at my heart
I call you she said
Yes I answered, without hesitation
Take me, use me, let me serve You
An inward breath, a pause, a moment of clarity, of ecstasy

And then I crumbled
I am not enough! I am a poor instrument! I will Fuck it up! I’m lazy! I’m a terrible procrastinator!
I became small, shut down,
A woman reached out to offer comfort and I snarled, I almost bit her hand.

I was called but I don’t know what it means
These moments of insight seem so profound
But afterward the current of life pulls me onward like nothing has changed
Before enlightenment, get up, go to work, make dinner, do the bedtime routine.
After enlightenment, get up, go to work, make dinner, do the bedtime routine.

Is this all there is? Is this all I am?
Is my calling going to feed my family?
Is the Earth going to set me up with a sweet job?
Am I wrecking it by asking these questions?

I am a tree
I am rooted in the Earth
My limbs give shade, shelter and solace
Creatures call my ample boughs home
My generousity is limitless
Yet never diminishes me or those who receive my grace

Who would find fault in the beauty of these twisted branches?
Who would measure the performance of my striving shoots?
Who could doubt that I am enough?
Just as I am
Rooted in the Earth
Reaching for the sky

I am the voice of compassion
I am the voice of the earth
I am the voice of the universal life force
I transform the world by being me.