For the Homeric Greeks, kleos, fame, was made of song. Vibrations in air contained the measure and memory of a person’s life. To listen was therefore to learn what endures.
I turned my ear to trees, seeking ecological kleos. I found no heros, no individuals around whom history pivots. Instead, living memories of trees, manifest in their songs, tell of life’s community, a net of relations. We humans belong within these conversations, as blood kin and incarnate members.
To listen is therefore to hear our voices and those of our family.
—David George Haskell
David Haskell, in his book Forest Unseen, spent one year observing a one-square-meter patch of old-growth forest. In his new book, Songs of Trees, which we will celebrate on May 7th, he repeatedly visits a dozen trees around the world, noticing how trees and humans intimately entwine. He actively listens to the “songs,” or sounds, that emerge from or surround these trees.
This writing, and these types of nature observations and experiences, are fundamental to the mission of Black Mountain Circle: exploring the connection between story, spirit, and nature. At our recent Geography of Hope Conference, we explored ways to cultivate and celebrate our relationship with our ancestors, both human and natural. The videos of the conference are now available. This summer, we will continue that exploration with a series Spiritual Ecology Walks with noted writers and teachers such as Kat Anderson, Wendy Johnson, Claire Peaslee, and Ilarion Merculieff. We are also planning spiritual ecology activities with and for millennials, 60 of whom attended the Geography of Hope conference.
In addition, we look forward to screening Diana Beresford Kroger’s film Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, which was previewed at Black Mountain Circle's Call of the Forest Conference in 2016 and is now in theaters in Canada.
We encourage you to take time to frequent your personal Geography of Hope and listen to the songs of the trees and the wild as sources of resilience. This month’s question is: What tree sings to you? Please consider sharing a short story of that tree and your relationship to it with the Black Mountain community (see below for more information on how to do that). Sharing our stories enriches the entire community.
Steve Costa and Kate Levinson