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Tree-Centred Practice, Part 5

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Observational Learning and the Field Journal

Accompanying the Seasons

Learning about trees through observing cycles of change is a deeply rewarding experience. It is an investment into ourselves as well as our relationships within nature. Fostering a practice of observing natures seasonal changes, builds further consistency in our focus on creating relational depth with trees, and their surrounding aliveness. It also advances our acquirement of knowledge and builds our repertoire of practical skills. It deepens our understanding of our environment, and strengthens our nature based instincts, our felt-senses and our memory development. Felt-senses become enhanced in responding to and informing us of subtle changes in our sensing field. We draw awareness's back into our primitive instincts, reawakening them. We may already be familiar with 'smelling rain' before it has began, or 'feeling snow' before we have sight of it. Our memory builds new layers upon inherited experience, and this enhances our navigation of the wild places and adds skills to our tree-centred practicum.

This tactile practice can be started any time of the year. Whichever season you make your start, will become personally meaningful to you. The weather, temperature ,and the presentation of the land will stimulate your bodily senses with the smells, sights, sounds and sensations. Creating a mood of experience. An impact. And this will colour your new journey of encountering nature and their spirits.

I began my path of learning through observation during an early spring time, and so, I have vivid memories of steel grey skies, low cold sun and bare trees on the very edge of becoming. I remember with fondness, visiting one very dear Ash tree. I made many intentional journeys to this one tree, keeping company to this being and observing changes unfolding. I remember noticing many other different trees, leafing at varying intervals, then I noticed that even the other ash trees were leafing before my companion. I would sit on the stone wall beside Ash, among the grasses and mosses. Sometimes sharing my stories, sometimes sitting quietly, always offering the core principles of Tree-Centred Practice, positive regard, congruence and empathy. Over time I would understand more depth of the being of the tree. I came to know the intimate curves of the landscape, the personalities of plants and the attitude of grasses. I expanded in my knowingness of the local wild animals, their social interactions and dramas. I observed the gentle cows in the field, with their emotional eyes and curly fringes, I felt deeply their sentience. As the seasons unfolded I observed the beingness of life unfurl in many shapes and forms. I observed the blossoming and blooming and the winds loosening. And then, the eventual slowing down of aliveness, and the exposure of vulnerabilities to the elements.


An Opinion of Books and the Internet

Books are amazing works of art and invaluable tools for learning. Reading books will add layers of knowledge and understanding to your Tree-Centred Practice, expanding imagination and a desire for adventure. Reading books written by people working in the tree-centred field will offer inspiration and influence the direction of your path. Searching for quality resources on tree-centred topics can be like a treasure hunt and so much fun. But there is also another way to learn about trees, and that is through observation. A book can tell you a lot about trees, for instance, what month generally the tree will leaf, or what type of bark the tree should have. But the book can not tell you, details of the life of your tree. How age, environment, location and health can determine when your tree will leaf. The book will not tell you the nuances written in the bark of your tree companion, the scars, challenges, injuries. The life stories of your unique tree. And the book can not tell you how you will feel while in togetherness of being with your tree companion.

Journeying through the seasons and observing the subtle changes occurring in nature is literally a world apart from the impulse to check the internet. Where everything we could ever want to know is at the touch of a button. When every slight inkling of curiosity is followed by a need to know right away. Instant stimulation, instant satisfaction. Other than enjoying a story and being inspired, what real sense of achievement can be gained from reading what someone else has lived? We don't want to live through the adventures of others. The real challenge is to make our own adventures, learning to wait and wonder, build our own vivid memories, mark the passing of our time with meaningful moments. Experiential learning also enables us to know intimately our own land, plants, trees, animal and weather, with us included as a member of the wild community.


Qualitative Research

Keeping a record of our observations and experiences is called qualitative research. Recording what we see, hear, smell and taste in nature. This is a helpful practice and supports us in capturing patterns and irregularities in patterns of change as time passes. Carrying a small pocket book and a pencil offers a handy opportunity to make notes on what we are experiencing, ensures that nothing is forgotten. Details such as the subtle textures of leaves, a glimpse of an unusual insect, or an exciting discovery of a rare herb, are some of the treasures that you wont want to forget. It can be a lot of fun to look back through the notebook and see how much you have uncovered.

A notebooks can contain little sketches, capturing colour, shape and form. Or become like a diary of your thoughts, feelings and felt-sensing. You can transcribe your conversations with trees and other nature beings. Your notes can be all about the ecological system you are exploring, such as the life of the woodland or moorland. Can include environmental factors for context such as the presence clean air, water or lack there of. Your recordings can include biospherical observations, such as noting the presence of mycelium through the identification of mushrooms. You can include spiritual insights and psychological musings. You can make your gathering of information as formal or informal as you want, your notebook can be neat and tidy or wildly crazy. You don't have to be a qualified scientist to record science. An dedicated armature with a passion will uncover mysteries, never before known.


Replacement of Self

We used to know all this nature stuff. A long time ago. We used to live, informed by the seasons, through listening to the weathers and trusting the skies. So much memory lies dormant within us, beneath all the surface stuff. Waiting to be stimulated by familiarity, waiting to be remembered. Like, drawn to like. We hold a wealth of wisdom within our felt-senses and instincts. Stored safely. We have only to keep company to our sensing field, giving grounded and aware presence. Reading books written by people working in nature and with trees will always support our learning, give context to our experiences. But it is important to remember that these books were written by people who lived their experiences first. These clever, funny and fascinating books are intended to inspire us to get out there and find our own adventures.

To learn through observing the changing seasons and to record our own observations is to gain a very rich personal experience. A knowledge and understanding of the lives of trees and the beingness of their communities, all traveling through time together. The process of experiential learning and activating instinctual remembrance, creates a bridge for us to be closer to trees and the land we live on. And through placing ourselves at the centre of repeated moments, we become something of these moments too. Included. And replace ourselves, back into natures narratives. Which also, places nature at the centre of ours.

Yours always in the heart of the woodlands,

Mags Black.

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