Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
In a fragmented society, says Druid author, celebrant and workshop leader Penny Billington, many of us are searching for a root-connection to life, which will nourish and sustain us, and who better to guide us than the solidly grounded trees?
As someone who has, for many years, drawn strength, wisdom and guidance from my own connection with certain trees, I had no difficulty whatsoever in agreeing with Penny’s comment. But I believe that even those who may at first be sceptical will, if they start delving into her book, soon come to appreciate her well-grounded, Nature-based, spiritual approach to self-understanding and personal growth.
This is not simply a book about trees. It is a book about you and me and all of us and how we can draw on a reservoir of help and energy that we might not even realize is available to us—i.e. the help and energy of those silent, deeply-rooted companions whose presence we all tend to overlook.
Trees, just like all those human teachers and gurus and mentors who help and guide us through our lives, provide their help and guidance in several different ways. They are role models for us, showing by example those qualities we would like to possess. They teach us how we can develop such qualities in ourselves. Plus, they are there for us when we need them, lending us their strength, their energy, their groundedness, especially in times of crisis or of doubt. Trees are there for us in all those same important ways. Though they cannot speak to us in words, they can communicate directly: we just need to learn how to hear them.
Anyone who spends time in the countryside or even in parks and gardens and who has observed trees closely and is sensitive to the subtle ‘feel’ of their energies, will have already noticed many differences between them. Some trees feel strong and solid, others more wispy and ethereal, some bend low and are flexible, others are tall and straight. Some change the direction of their leaves to indicate the direction of the wind, others don’t…and so on.
For this book, Penny has chosen just three ‘tree teachers’ and for each of the three she gives us a comprehensive description of that tree’s special qualities and of the ways in which we can (a) learn to express those qualities in our own lives and (b) call upon the assistance and support of the tree and its companions when it is needed—assistance and support which all trees seem not only willing but delighted to provide whenever they are asked.
With guidance from the birch, we can harness our own sense of anticipation and our eagerness to find new beginnings, to set new intentions and also to learn greater flexibility. The oak lends us strength, nurtures us and engenders in us a deep sense of belonging in place. The ancient yew reminds us of our heritage and takes us even further along spiritually transformational pathways.
Thus each tree offers its own special kind of magic. However, the reader should not be put off by the word ‘magic.’ In a Druidic context, the word is used not to describe some sort of mysterious, supernatural processes but rather to describe profoundly natural processes that only appear mysterious to us because our rationalist, materialistic culture has led us far away from our roots in the natural world. This is a book to lead us back and to give us a wealth of suggestions, exercises, meditations etc. that can help us tune into what are, after all, simply invisible currents that flow continually throughout Nature and which—being ourselves part of Nature—we always have access.
For any ‘seeker’ who can suspend scepticism long enough to take in what it offers, this is a wonderfully comprehensive and thorough self-help guide to finding, not a stairway to some imaginary heaven but a way back into one’s own unique, comfortable and deeply grounded place on Earth.