Learning to Listen to Trees

Holly Woods
7 min readJan 6, 2023

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My Stately Talking Tree

Thank god I’m finally back, I thought.

I landed in Southwest Colorado after being gone for nearly a decade.

The wildfires, toxic air, power outages, drought and then the isolation of the pandemic drove me from northern California. I would miss the ocean and redwoods, and my daughter still there, but I wouldn’t miss the cataclysmic feeling of nature being destroyed.

A brief trip back to Texas to be near family during the pandemic and get daily hugs turned into 1.5 years in Austin. It was almost like I had to visit hell to propel me back to sanity.

I got to experience the February 2021 Snowpocalypse of Texas’ deregulated energy climate. I got to witness a resurgence of world-class bigotry and clamp-down on human rights, with abortion, gender rights, voting and immigration all taking a backseat to political and class warfare.

Yet I realized I’d also come back into rural Colorado and its blue towns/cities and sprawling red mountains and plains. The federal District in which I reside again produced (by 1000 votes) one of the most preposterously boastful Trump-tainted bigots in the US House of Representatives.

So there’s that.

And still…

To walk in the trees.

Hear the birds without the roar of cars.

To sit by a river watching nothing but twigs (or kayaks or rafts, depending on the time of year) float by.

I am Home again.

The Magic of Nature

Magically, I found another place to live where I get to walk out the door to a trail.

The first few times out on a new looped trail, I always get lost.

I’m listening to the trees.

Watching the many species of birds.

Noticing the patterns of shrubs and grasses.

Analyzing the geologic make-up of the dirt and rocks.

Eventually looking up, I find myself in an unrecognizable spot and wonder where I made the wrong turn.

Spending another hour wandering around to find my way home is not what I’d call a waste of time.

The Living Forest

After a few jaunts into the nearby wood when I could adequately find my way home, I became more attentive to the nuances of the trees and other foliage and fauna.

The way the sunlight bounced in and out of branches at different hours of the day.

The trees the birds sang in, versus the ones where they ate.

The grasses that grew near shrubs and those that thrived in meadows.

The ground cover that rested beneath the pines, and that which covered the oak’s roots.

The density of the dirt on the packed trail, and the unfettered earth on either side of it.

My own mood in each loop around the trail would determine how much I would notice.

Sometimes head down with a dilemma to resolve, I’d power through a walk and hear scarcely a few bird notes.

Always, when in a mood to explore, my spirits would lift. The trees would wave. Birds would chirp loud chorus, and the shrubs rustled their amusement.

And then one day, He spoke to me.

From what seemed out of nowhere (but was obviously right in my path) a large, hefty tree called out.

“Hey!” it said loudly, in the type of psychic language you can hear if you hear those things. Which I do.

I practically fell over, astonished.

I’d heard many voices in my life, mostly behind my right ear, and more recently above or even inside my head, but never from a tree.

A few years ago, I heard the bountiful chatter of sock-high plants on a redwood trail in northern California. I’d been to ecstatic dance and was psychically blown wide open. Each plant had their own type of ‘hello’ that sounded like lyrical bells of different sizes and textures. It was a delightful walk.

But this tree was LOUD! Almost rude. Can a tree be rude?

He said it again, “Hey!”

I wondered how I knew it was a He, or masculine gendered, or whatever. But it had that kind of testosterone feeling. I knew trees don’t have testosterone, but anyway, it felt masculine.

And now He just looked at me, it seemed. Contemplating yelling at me again. But waiting. Almost tapping his foot.

Hi, I said. So curious why He was talking to me, a human.

“Because I can,” He replied to my thought, which wasn’t really a question. “And because you can hear me.”

Oh. I muttered to myself, realizing He could hear my myriad mental meanderings.

“I wanted to get your attention, and you were obviously somewhere else,” He chuckled.

So much for being present, I thought.

“No, you weren’t, though you were enjoying yourself,” He chuckled again. “And that’s better than most of the humans I see.”

Now I was amused. Here’s this hefty (I did NOT call it fat!) stately solid tree on the edge of the path (or is the path on the edge of Him, I wondered?) and He’s watching all the humans go by and making assumptions about us. Fascinating.

I was at a loss for words, and trying to be absent of thought, since He obviously could hear my mind rattling away.

“I really just wanted to say Hello,” he stated matter-of-factly. “You looked friendly.”

Wow. Now I was taken aback. What else did He really want to say, now that I was attentive.

So what do you truly want to say to me? I queried Him, the Tree.

“I can speak to you, and you can hear me.” He stopped there, though there felt to be more.

I waited as best I could, patience not my strong suit.

He sighed. “I have things to say too, and I’d like to tell someone.”

Pause. Wait.

“And I need a hug. A really big one.”

Startled, I felt the pull of the tree stronger than any energy I’d ever felt from a plant. Maybe more than any other living Being.

I rushed to Him the Tree and wrapped my arms around his scratchy reddish pine bark. As my fingers touched the back (do trees have backs? Or is it just the other side from my perspective?) side of His trunk, I felt His energy wrap simultaneously around me. Almost as if His branches had reached down to hold me, though there were none apparently near enough to do so.

In that moment, I felt more loved, more held, more fulfilled than possibly any other moment on Earth. I loved Him the Tree so deeply, and He me, that we felt like one.

I held Him for a really really long time. Several minutes at least. I pleaded that a mountain biker would not find us in this embrace. Though I’m known as a tree hugger, this was too special to interrupt.

I let go of the embrace, then felt pulled back in. He didn’t resist. Everything about our connection was perfect.

I finally let go. Kissed His weathered skin. Put my cheek on His bark. Then began to back away. Almost embarrassed at the exchange, and knowing my life would never be the same.

Thank you, I said softly. My heart felt cracked open, a new wrinkle in the space-time material-non-material human-non-human illusion.

He nodded. “Yes, that was what I needed.”

I hesitated a moment, then took a few steps down the trail.

The Start of Something Different

I had no idea what to make of this tree exchange.

I’ve known other people who talk to plants, though it seems more of a fun distraction or pastime for them than something to be taken seriously.

As I’ve allowed this experience to marinate in me over the past few months, I’ve heard them (the voices) suggest that “I need to pay attention closely, more than ever, and hear their voices.”

OK. I can do that.

‘And to record it. Write it down. Share it.” they say.

OK. For what, I ask?

No answer, initially.

And then, finally, after listening to trees for a while and not taking the instructions seriously, I now understand why.

It came in a vision, where I saw the Earth burning.

They said, “You’ll need a record. Write their stories down so that you will make a record of the Earth as She exists now. Tell the stories of the trees and birds and grasses. The beauty that exists now so people can remember and hold onto the possibility that She will return.”

So I will share the stories of the trees. The birds. The grasses. And whatever else will speak to me when I’m able to listen intently, mind chatter temporarily halted.

Why Me?

I don’t pretend to be that unusual, to hear the trees or any other part of nature. Indigenous peoples, natives, psychics, gardeners, farmers, children… so many people have and can hear nature’s voices. Their voices are always here for us to hear and explore.

And there’s something about what I’m supposed to share, in my own unique one-of-a-kind truth-telling stumbling-around-to-find-answers way that may be different. I guess we’ll see.

I can only share my lived experiences of what I’m learning from the trees and other forms of nature. And I’ll do so with as much irreverence for my method and reverence for my Beloved Earth as I can.

I promise to be just a translator for what wants to be said by Him. Them. Her.

About the Author

I’m the Author of the bestseller, The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life. Download this free audio course to learn about your own Golden Thread of purpose.

I am a purpose activator and catalyst. I warn people they shouldn’t be near me unless they want to become a new version of themselves. That scares some people, delights others.

I’ve spent my life imagining a world where we could become who we’re meant to be so our purposeful gifts can be a nuanced puzzle piece for our puzzling world. I’m the creator and dreamer behind the Purpose Flywheel™.

I’m obviously now working to help us all become limitless. To create an inconceivable alternate version of the reality we currently experience. For all of us, not just some.

Stay tuned or contact me to get started now.

Learn more at Emergence Institute.

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Holly Woods

I guide leaders to navigate the uncertain future so they can enact world-changing visions, rooted in purpose and catalyzed by synchronicity,.