This past summer I had the privilege of meeting quite possibly the oldest tree in Manitoba.
My family and I were camping in the beautiful south-western town of Souris, and much to my (pleasant) surprise, one of their many tourist attractions is "The Mystical Old Oak Tree".
For centuries, all of humanity has revered the strength and wisdom of trees. The Oak in particular were sacred to the Druids who gathered for ceremony within the Oak groves. Here they obtained and shared knowledge, and here they worshipped the Spirit of Nature.
Estimated to be around 600 years old, this Oak is a wonder to behold. Standing tall along the banks of the Souris River, many can guess at what all this tree has seen;
Tee pees scattered across the prairie, herds of buffalo gathering for a drink, white settlers flooding the region in wagon loads, trappers checking their sets along the river, cattle replacing buffalo, and permanent residents in square houses replacing the nomadic people who followed the herds.
Just a short hike from the campground, my family and I paid the Oak a visit one evening. Together, we stood there admiring and feeling the energy of the tree, with other people regularly passing by.
I knew then that I would be needing a visit where I could be alone with the Oak.
So early the next morning I set out with crystals in my pocket that I had brought from home in anticipation of visiting this tree and making an offering.
The forest was peaceful in the early morning hours, as most of the campers across the river were still sleeping.
I approached the Oak with reverence, and immediately noticed how within the presence of such a grand old tree, one can feel quite young and immature.
I held my crystals in my hands for a while and charged them with love and appreciation and blessings before tucking them into the soil around the base of the Oak. While tucking them into the natural nooks and crannies at the base of the tree, I wondered what the squirrels will think when they make this discovery while stashing acorns.
We have many Oaks on the farm where I live, but none with such deep "wrinkles". Such think protection surrounds the flesh of this Oak.
I simply stood for a while with my hands upon the bark, my eyes closed, and felt the energy of the tree.
Subtle at first, but with increasing strength, I noticed an emerald glow from deep within the tree. Such a powerful life force resides here, no wonder this tree has thrived for centuries.
I shared energy with the tree and expressed my gratitude to the Oak for sharing energy with me.
As I continued to stand there, I began to hear the distant stirrings of the campers near the river below us. The smell of woodsmoke drifted on the morning air.
"Nature does so much listening", I thought to myself. "Here it is, surrounding us, always listening, always noticing, always observing, quietly on the fringes of civilization. For centuries, what all has this tree heard?"
As though my thoughts were spoken out loud, the Oak answered,
"Humanity must remember what it means to listen with their hearts. You must learn to listen if your heart is to open and expand."
At this point there was such a strong surge of loving energy from within the tree that my eyes filled with tears. I've always sensed that Nature, especially trees, love us dearly, but this Oak in particular was sharing in a way I had never felt before.
I thought about the words of the Oak.
How many of us truly listen?
How different would our world be if we listened with the intent to understand one another, rather than the intent to convince one another?
How often do we listen to contemplate, rather than simply waiting for our turn to talk?
Here, along the banks of a prairie river lives a tree with the knowledge of hundreds of centuries of listening and contemplation.
How many trees there are around this world containing the wisdom of all they have seen and heard.
They are here for us, these Keepers of Knowledge, with their hearts wide open. Holding their secrets safe and releasing them to all who take the time to listen.
How beautiful that in a busy world, there are still people, like those in Souris, who recognize the importance of this Elder among us and have honoured their existence.
The words of this Oak stayed with me after I returned home, and I have found that I am still hearing its words. Now that I have made this connection, I have found that I've been able to "tap in" and maintain a communication.
Most recently, regarding my life and wrestling with what I "ought" to be doing, I heard the Oak reply,
"It does not matter how many people you reach or how many books you sell. All that matters, for everyone, in every moment, is how well you hold the light."
I pondered these words. And the more I pondered the clearer they became.
Who are we in the "in-between" moments of life?
Who are we when no one is looking?
How kind are we when we have nothing to gain?
Do we notice the simple beauty of life around us?
How well do we uncover and reflect the beauty of others back to them?
How true to our hearts are we living our lives?
In essence, how well do we hold the light?
Just as the Oak, like countless other trees, have been here on Earth, holding the light, a torch of knowledge, for centuries.
This light does not shine so brightly as to blind anyone, or to draw the attention of large crowds.
It shines strong and steady for those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the hearts to feel its warmth.
And simply by quietly holding the light as best we can, just like a Tree, we make this world a brighter place.
May peace be with you throughout your day and may you be true to the torch that you carry.