What do we mean when we say “tree”? And what exactly is “you” or “me”?
I wish I knew how a tree sees itself. One tree. But it’s not one tree. It never began and it will never end. I could say that it grew from a seedling, but if I were to pick up the seed and unpeel the legacy of causes, I would find myself at the heart of a cosmic broth – fourteen billion years ago, before the Universe knew we were coming, when substances that would transition into me were squished with others. They would become fields of lavender, particles exhaled from a lion’s roar, the serrated feathers of a hawk… Going further than that, it gets a little tricky.
Let’s return to our tree. Under a palette of tree roots and soil, we find a sinuous map of fungus roots, tangled wires of mycelium, complex enough to contend with the billions of neurons in our own brains. This tree is now lost in the crowd, it is one of many staging posts where threads in a warp fuse together and disperse. We lose focus and marvel at the collective. These trees pass epochs of wisdom through wires like speaking into tin cans connected by efficient strings. Except they speak in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, hormones, water… I could go on. Perhaps their language is unmistakeable unlike ours. Our need for simplicity directs us to separate and signify. For example, what do we mean when we say “meadow”? Are we referring to the chaotic library of plant genomes, or an area continuously bettering itself in a process of change? Our words are hollow bodies, which sometimes meaning struggles to hang on to. Words have become things in themselves. I wish there was a word for a tree moments after a heavy downpour.
We must learn from trees and allow our minds to be the porous forests as they were in our childhoods. Investigate what we’ve grown used to. We are not merely individuals. In Sanskrit the term pratitya samutpada means to be by co-emergence or “dependent origination.” It’s a Buddhist notion that points to the absurdity of being autonomous. We are made of plants and animals, and they are made of us. The oxygen we breathe was once inside dinosaurs, oceans, and swooned among prehistoric plants in the midst of debuting the first petals. I’m certain that you’ve breathed my oxygen, as certain as I am that I’ve breathed yours. Seeing as we’re unconsciously interdependent, why don’t we endeavour to consciously discover ourselves in each other, find common ground to interweave our wires?
Z.R. Ghani is a poet and Editorial Assistant from North London, UK. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and her poems have appeared in Magma Poetry, Black Bough Poetry, The Willowherb Review, and Square Wheel Press.