Under The Tree Series 1
by Calina Zadravetz
Today I share with you my experiences of visiting one tree, each week, for one year, with one camera, one mic and me.
As a photographer and filmmaker, and because I grew up in Oregon around a lot of trees, I wanted to reconnect with nature as an adult. So I went to a local forest to walk around. I came to a beech tree which drew me in because of its umbrella-like canopy. When I entered a feeling of inner peace arose and I felt at home, encased: an instant connection vibrated deeply within the root of me.
I decided to make a commitment to visit every week on the same day, to film myself experiencing whatever words, inspiration, stillness or movement came through me. With no script or attachment to outcome.
I’d walk slowly to give myself the space to ‘tune-in’ to all senses and to absorb my environment. I looked at colour, shapes, and detail; smelling the scents floating by, tasting the textures passing on the air. I listened to the words of birds or the wind blowing in the branches of the trees. Touching a plant or feeling the earth beneath my feet. I was truly grateful for the internal harmony flowing through me.
Each week I was excited to see how the tree had transformed. Winter encroached and only the skeleton remained of the tree’s structure. The days were getting colder and darker and with these quick transformations, my attention was guided towards the motions of nature’s cycles surrounding me.
Even a generation or two ago we shared more time in nature. Since the 1980’s, Dr. Qing Li from the Nippon Medical School in Japan coined the term Shinrin Yoku, also known as Forest Bathing or Nature Therapy. When we share time in nature, connecting with our senses, focusing on the breath and doing very slow-moving exercise, the evidence of restorative health can be seen to have a direct effect on our physical and emotional bodies. The birth of this recognizable healing began as a counterbalance to the highly stressful culture of the corporate world.
(Qi) In Eastern culture the body is viewed to be healthy if it is in harmony and when it goes out of harmony there is dis-ease. Do we ever stop to ask, ‘how do I feel?’. Do we ever get a chance to observe stillness? Do we ever get a chance to focus on the breath?
Whenever I entered the forest I would instinctively ‘tune in’. Tune in with all my senses to what surrounds me, listening to my hearing, feeling with my touch, seeing with my sight, tasting with my tongue and smelling the scents of the forest along the journey. Through this practice of tuning in, an inner stillness awakened within the silence and was expressed here through words and images. This practice allowed me to be free to explore, observe and question without judgement.
As a species, we are often inclined to talk. The noise in our heads is often so loud that we want to expel it to resonate outwardly. During the making of Under The Tree Series 1, I encountered another noticeable phenomena of what happens when I offered silence to listening. I noticed there was a focus that was awakening me to be aware of this internal conversation so I could then focus on being ‘still’ enough to listen.
I then noticed the connection to how our environment can directly reflect how we feel. The season of the cold and darkness brought me into moments of being alone and even turned into moments of fear. This fear was very strange to me because I grew up on 30 acres of land in the Siskiyou mountains of Oregon. I always viewed nature as a sanctuary and as a friend. So why was I feeling fear?
In these moments, in stillness with nature, it gave me the time to ask myself why do I feel like this? Is there anything really to be fearful of? I came out of my headspace and looked all around to observe my surroundings as a witness.
I knew nature wasn’t scary. So I would share time under the tree for 2-5 hours each visit and the more I did this the more my mind realised there is nothing to fear here. I started to see that our minds can create imaginary visions, but in reality there may be a different story.
I then brought my awareness to my breath and used all my senses to ‘tune in’. Then I asked, can I change the story within my mind to see life from a different perspective and really see reality unfolding before me? If this is the case then can I be the creator of my own reality?
Nature is always saying yes! Nature flows in abundance! Nature is saying ‘yes’ freely. Freely offering us air to breathe. Freely offering us energy from food and light from the sun. Freely offering us life. Nature says ‘yes’ and it says ‘yes’ abundantly.
Even though it’s been a while since I visited my tree, each day I walk within its stillness and inner mystery, that my experience with the tree will always be a part of my journey. Now, every time I have a thought that resonates unbalance or disharmony, I remember to breathe in the cyclic of motion with nature with ‘my tree’.