I Asked the Redwoods

The face of the Redwood. Alameda, California, January 2015. Pussreboots CC.

By Nichola Torbett. This article appeared in Geez magazine, Summer 2020, Geez 57: CO₂conspirators: Communing with Trees.

A couple weeks ago, walking in the redwoods with a dog, at the suggestion of adrienne maree brown, I decided to ask the trees about COVID-19.

Basically, what I heard from the trees is that even this virus has a message for us if we are willing to hear it. No, they were not saying that “God created a virus to punish us” – trust me, I checked, because I have not forgotten the 1980s. But they were clear that there was a message.

As far as I could make it out, the immediate message is SLOW DOWN and start taking care – of yourselves, of your own bodies, of each other, of the people and other living beings who are being ground up and spit out of all your systems.

They said: You thought it was impossible to make a sudden about-face, to step outside the relentless economic processes that reduce all of life to ‘resources’ to be expended. You said: ‘We know we have to change everything in the next ten years, but we can’t imagine how.’ But here you are, brought to a grinding halt by something so tiny it is invisible to the eye.

What if you used this time when all the events are getting cancelled and many of you are being told not to report to work to reconnect with what you love?

What if this virus brings you to your knees so that you have to admit that you don’t really know how to move forward? And then what if you started reconsidering how you’ve been living? And then reaching out to each other – especially to those most at risk – and talking about what you long for and noticing the redwoods and the daffodils and talking to us, too? What if?

Two days ago, I was again walking in the redwoods, and I asked them, “Would it be better for you if we were gone, we humans?”

They were dumbfounded by the question. They said: Oh, honey, only a human could even conceive of such a question. We would never desire or imagine we could benefit from death. That’s your kind of thinking.

And further, dear one, they said, the fact that you are asking this suggests you have a kind of self-hatred that breaks our hearts and is also very dangerous to us. You humans hate yourselves, deep down, for what you have done, and you will not be able to stop doing escalating harm until you stop hating yourselves. We love you. There is grace available if you are willing to let go.

Nichola Torbett walks dogs for a living in Oakland, California and engages in justice work to stay alive.

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Geez 57, Summer 2020, Geez 57: CO₂conspirators: Communing with Trees.

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