The Being in the Tree

Black Walnut Tree Goddess by Annette Wagner, 2009

The Being in the Tree

There is a large, old black walnut tree that owns the backyard of a house I used to live in. She is magnificent with arms that reach way up to the sky with old brown crooked fingers and rough grey-brown bark in patterns all over her. She loses all her leaves in the fall and is the last tree in the spring to sprout green leafy fingers.

Black squirrels chase up and down her body competing for her walnuts, chittering at each other loudly. They plant walnuts in my pots and I cherish the baby trees that grow. Crows love to perch and squawk at me from her branches, watching my every action and telling me what to do. Walnut tree is old and past her prime. I don’t know how many more years she has.

Why do I name this walnut tree she? Because there is a living being in that tree.

She started calling to me several years ago. At first I thought I was crazy thinking she was calling me. Then one night I walked over and stood under her arms and looked straight up and saw her face in the bark looking back at me. I was stunned at the reality of that face, of its life and aliveness.

I wrapped my arms around her rough scratchy bark still looking up at her and I could feel her taking me in to her. Taking in this small being to her large being. It was amazing and nurturing and powerful.  

I began to do rituals under the full moon at the base of her trunk. Sometimes just leaning on her and meditating under the moon. Sometimes wrapping myself around her so tightly I felt like I was a piece of her bark.

One afternoon, she called me while I was in my studio. I went out and put my arms around her and looked straight up her trunk at the sky. As soon as I looked up, I knew she wanted me to paint her. I could see her face in the bark looking back at me, asking. And so, I began to paint her.

What I painted was not a black walnut tree — I painted HER, the being who is Black Walnut Tree Goddess. Her face peeks through the bark; her arms are branches.

I painted the beings who live on her body, squirrel and crow, at the bottom along with a row of walnut shells which are her eggs, her seed. By painting Her, I gave her the gift of my art, a gift enabling everyone to see her — a goddess who is a tree who is a goddess. My hope is when people view my painting of Her, they will see the beings living here with us more clearly. 

There is a taboo in the culture I was raised in against anthropomorphizing nature. To do so is childish and immature. To assign the attributes of humanity, much less godhood, to a thing of nature? Not to be spoken aloud. Not to be thought. Certainly not to be painted. Or written about. Or have poetry written in reverence of it. Which is to obliterate my spiritual path in one fell swoop. And for me to protest that? Well that is taboo as well.

This does not stop me from painting or writing or walking my path. But it has, on occasion, made me pause, take an extra deep breath, and feel the fear I must move through to share my work in this culture. The courage I must draw upon to take a stance and poke a hole right square in the middle of that particular taboo.


Black Walnut Tree

I made love to black walnut tree tonight under a full moon

Wrapping my body around her barky skin,

Grasping the ridges of her trunk to pull myself in tight

Feeling her tree energy magnetically pulling me inside her

Breathing in the tree earth wood smell of her

Peering up at her arm branches holding up the sky

Her wrinkled and rough face looking darkly back at me

With my small white arms wrapped around her knots

Pressing my breasts against her bark,

nurturing and nurtured

She is all scratchy edges, smelling of earth love,

and green growing

I squeeze, cell by cell resonating with her tree heart, my heart

Stepping into her time flow she holds me in stillness,

Enveloped by her towering stature

I merge, floating in her consciousness

Sharing glimpses of living with one’s feet in the soil

drawing up the blood of the earth into my body, her body

She sends me home, sated with earth love

My arms are branches,

my skin is bark,

My feet sink into the earth.

~ Annette Wagner (2009)


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Published also in the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine.