This is from a newly tweaked passage in the novel that I call Babe in the Woods, based on my experiences at the Monroe Institute’s Gateway program back in December, 1992. I wrote it in a couple of months (or in 15 years, depending on how you wish to count) and sent it to friends for a critique, and am finishing revising it. I am surprised, a little, at how much I had wanted to say that I neglected to say, and at how many things I never thought to say in the first place. Ah well, little by little….
There’s a thought. I came to a fir tree just as a prolonged burst of wind began tossing it back and forth. I moved to Interface, and instantly thought, this is another life form, after all, as alien to us as anything else, but no more so. Why shouldn’t I be able to communicate with it?
I watched it tossing back and forth in the wind, looking like a great green cat getting its fur ruffled by a loving friend. It’s calling to me, I thought, and for the moment I set logic aside and acted as if the thought were the truth. I stepped into the tree, pushing between its branches, and stood there engulfed in it.
It is difficult to speak or write truly of these things, because when you go to tell some kinds of things, you can’t get the right emphasis, or the right lack of emphasis. Some things that come with a lot of flash and bang turn out to be superficial, while things that have very profound effects tend to occur in a very matter-of-fact way, and the very fact that we talk about them distorts them in a sense, by giving them too much direct attention. Some things, like faint distant stars, are best seen in the side of the eye, and can’t really be seen by looking straight at them. “All” that really happened as I interfaced with that tree was that I was sent back to my early childhood on the farm, and I remembered with great vividness how very much I had loved the patch of woods we’d had behind the field that was behind the house. Fifty years earlier, in those years right after the war finished, in an America long vanished now, no one had thought anything about my disappearing in those woods for hours at a time, at a time when I wasn’t even ten years old.
I’d forgotten that before I had books in my life, I had the woods! And before I absorbed our society’s notion of what is real or unreal, I lived in a world that I experienced directly.
Staying in Interface, I was again so aware of the essence of the tree, after all that many years.
I used to know that the energy of woods was not the same as the energy of fields, and fields were not the same as cities or suburbs. How could I have forgotten that where trees are, the land is different? Standing there, my mental and emotional energy entangled in the tree, I was experiencing again a form of communication without words, a form of communication natural to children, lost somewhere in the difficulties of adolescence. I knew even then, standing there, that the experience itself was beyond words and would remain beyond words. Words could hint at it, perhaps.
I thought, unexpectedly, of Clifford Simak. Years ago, when I was a kid, I had read one of his science-fiction stories in which a man interfaced with a plant. I had always remembered Simak saying how do you communicate with a plant? You don’t exchange algebraic equations, or deep thoughts—you exchange emotions. I wonder how he knew that. The thought gave me my cue, and I set my intent to give the tree love. In return I felt this tremendous outpouring of joy at being alive. I must remember this!
Later I would consider this moment as the beginning of my life as a conscious being. Conscious life involves a lot more than human beings, or even humans and animals, or even—as I would come to realize some time later—human beings and animals and plants. The great chain of being, I would find, extended farther down the scale than I had realized, and farther up.