About 7 years ago I purchased a 100 year old house on a couple of acres of land. Although the house needed a lot of work we bought the house as it was close to the proximity of town where my wife works at the local Albertsons.
In front of our house are two very large birch trees, one of them measures 32 feet around the trunk. These trees are half alive and half dead, in a constant state of renewing old, weathered branches containing holes made by woodpecker’s years ago.
Our home also provided a place for our 6 grandchildren to run and play. I built a big swing set for them that included a slide and a fort. Often times, when I was working in the yard I could not help but overhear their little arguments that eventually escalated to a full-fledged war where I had to actually get involved.
One day, one of my grandchildren and I were walking around and picking up sticks underneath the tree that was dropping the most dead branches. As we were picking up sticks, my grandson asked me why that particular tree dropped more branches than the other trees. I responded, telling him that this particular tree was a rare Listening Tree.
'What is a Listening Tree?' he asked.
"This tree is close to 100 years old," I told him, "and during those hundred years one might try to imagine all that this tree has witnessed throughout its life. Think of the many picnics people had beneath this tree when it was younger and healthier. Imagine all the young men who passed this tree as they went off to war, and the happiness of those same young men as they arrived home, passing this tree along the way."
"But why is it called a 'Listening Tree'?" my grandson asked.
'Well, I was just getting to that; sometimes there are trees that have lived long enough to have witnessed all kinds of things that happened around it over the years. Sometimes, when a tree is like this one . . . half dead and half alive, it becomes sensitive and positive and negative events that take place around the tree, or on the property, have a profound effect on this Listening Tree."
'What happens to a Listening Tree when people are mad or sad?" my grandson asked.
"There have been many scientific studies concerning how well a plant flourishes in positive work places, just as the plants which are placed in a negative work environment struggle to stay alive. So you might see how an old tree who has stood silently outside of the house over the last 100 years may have witnessed the births and deaths in the old house. Experiencing the positive and negative vibrations within the house has always had an effect on the Listening Tree. However, today the tree is old and struggling to stay alive. So when we talk to each other in hateful ways, argue, and call each other names, the Listening Tree dies a little more. That is why we are picking up so many sticks today. I have heard you and your cousins doing some fighting while you all are here, and whenever you do that you kill part of the Listening Tree,"
My Grandson worked quietly as we continued to pick up the sticks
"However," I told him, "When people are nice to each other, and the Listening Tree hears laughter and happiness, it gets a little better. This is why I need everybody to get along while they are here. If they don't, they are killing the Listening Tree and there will be more sticks to pick up."
A few days after this conversation, all of my grandchildren came to our house to play. As I worked around the corner, a couple of them started to fight and argue. Then I heard my grandson yell at all the children present saying, "STOP! You're killing Papa's Listening Tree!" Upon hearing about the Listening Tree, all of the fighting stopped and while at my house all the grandchildren (now 10 of them) are careful as to what to say as to not hurt the Listening Tree. They have even told visiting adults who occasionally swear that they should not talk like that because it is killing the Listening Tree.
If the truth be known, it is I who is really the Listening Tree. Every time my grandchildren do not get along and start fighting, it kills part of me. When they are happy and running around the property laughing and playing, a little bit of me come back to life.
I might add that there are many Listening Trees all over the world, and due to the fact a Listening Tree cannot always be identified, the grandchildren know that what they do and say can be killing a nearby Listening Tree.
I have noticed a great improvement as far as the grandchildren getting along better. However, on occasion, I have heard one of the kids say, "Stop it! You are killing Papas Listening Tree.
I have come to have a special love for our Listening Tree and enjoy sitting in meditation underneath the giant spread of branches. Although I know that I am the Listening Tree, I hope to bring my grandchildren up to be loving and compassionate for others, after all, you never know if any trees nearby are Listening Trees.