Call from a Tree Ancestor

I opened my eyes in the darkness. I thought I had woken up, because I lay in the exact position I had fallen asleep in, and I was in the same location in the dark room. Suddenly, I felt an ominous, angry presence. I sat up and an enormous tree appeared, not more than six feet in front of me. Its presence was so frightening that I wanted to look away, but I forced myself to look

straight at it. Its trunk was dark and thick and reached up to the ceiling. Its limbs stretched out and away from the roof. Deep in the grooves of the bark oozed a reddish, amber light, as if the tree was on fire from within, although there was no lick of flames or hiss of smoke. The tree was still, yet it writhed in rage and distress.

I asked, “Why are you so upset? Why are you so angry?” Without audible words, the tree told me it had been struck by lightning too many times and could not regrow its leaves. It was sad because no one remembered it was there. I felt the waves of its grief.

Six young women appeared from the adjoining room, three from either side. They were dressed in nursing uniforms from the 1960s, complete with white stockings and white, starched caps. They approached the tree silently, with concern. It was clear that they wanted to help me heal the tree, but none of us knew what to do.

I grabbed my phone to take a picture of the tree. As I snapped the photo, the tree transformed into a wall of sparking gold and white light, and quickly faded away. I looked at the picture on my phone and saw that same image of light.

In late summer of this year, I visited a friend’s camp in Southeastern Canada. I arrived on a warm, golden afternoon.  When I walked through the front door of the cabin my eyes were immediately drawn to a wooden futon couch in the right corner of the room. Upon sitting on the futon, I felt compelled to claim it as my sleeping space. My friend offered me other, more comfortable options, but I could not shake the need to be in this space. I easily fell asleep on the futon. Sometime, in the early hours of the morning, I received the dream. Upon waking, I felt an immediate sense of release, and no longer felt compelled to be in that space.

Trees, it turns out, have a fifty-percent chance with each lightning strike of being able to regrow their leaves. Struck at the roots too many times, a tree will not survive.  I believe this tree ancestor was calling out to me for recognition and healing.  The young women who appeared in the guise of nurses in the dream wanted to help with this process.  As a young child growing up in the 1960’s, nurse was the only image of a healer my culture allowed, and at one point I wanted to be one.  In the dream, I knew these nurses were novice priestesses.  But none of us knew what to do, except be present and listen to Tree’s story.

In the dream, I snapped the photo as a promise to remember the tree’s suffering. In response, Tree transformed into essence and light. My dream taught me there is great healing power in bearing witness to the stories of the dead.

We all have ancestors so internally and externally disfigured by trauma that their stories are lost to us or banished to silence. Tree reminded me that our ancestors across the web of life carry stories that require witness and healing.

About the Author

Tracey Girdich provides play and arts-based interventions for children under six in her role as an early childhood mental health interventionist. She has worked for decades in the field of early childhood education as a teacher and mentor for professionals new to the field.  Tracey is also a theatre artist, an oral storyteller, and a founding member of Green Candle Theatre Company.

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