Time for trees

by | Nov 29, 2015 | Seasons Newsletter | 10 comments

Have you ever sat in silence in a forest?

If so, you may have noticed how full of change it is.The moment to come is different from the moment just passed. Wind stirs the air and shakes the leaves, creating sounds that shift and change. Light comes and goes, flickering or shafting past tall trunks, branches and twigs.

The temperature alters, from warm to chill. A leaf falls, and the bush is changed by its fall. A gecko slips under a stone. A mosquito alights on your hand.


A certain tree

Last weekend I sat on the earth at the base of a 50-year-old kauri tree, which was surrounded by many tree companions. The trunk of the kauri was slender enough to be encompassed by my hand, yet tall enough to pierce the canopy above, where it reached up into full sun.

Sitting there, holding the trunk, I feel a surprising strength of movement as the wind tosses the spiky crown of the tree. The trunk feels almost wiry, or perhaps rubbery. There is no danger of it snapping even though recent storms have been fierce.

I talk to the tree about the gift it received seven years ago. It was here that we buried the placenta of my granddaughter. When Mira visits the land, the first thing she does is to run up the bush path to visit ‘her’ tree.

‘Look after her when I’m gone,’ I tell the tree, knowing it will outlive me. ‘Watch over her.’


First meeting

The tree and I first met when I was in my early twenties and the tree was just a delicate seedling in a nursery. It was one of several that my husband and I perched on the running board of our Lambretta motor scooter as we bumped along the unsealed road to the coast, to our block of land.

We were young then, and not long married; young enough to plant 6 inch-high seedlings in springtime, and to know that we had a lifetime ahead in order to watch them grow.

Many springs have come and gone since then, and for decades I have watched the trees grow, sheltered by the ‘nurse crop’ of manuka.

Kauri dieback disease has taken a hold in the Waitakeres, threatening the lives of many giant kauris. But this one, young and solitary, is healthy and strong.


Tree clasping traditions

As I sat on the earth, I thought of the sacred connection that indigenous people have with trees; how my Celtic ancestors worshipped ash, hawthorn and oaks; and how Druids would meet outside in sacred groves.

I thought of how intimately Maori knew the bush —ngahere—and the reverence they hold for certain trees, many of which have been given names. Tane Mahuta, the largest kauri of all, grows in Northland and is thought to be 2,000 years old. Although kauris are best known for having names, they are not the only ones. The Tuhoi tribe named a significant hinau tree, which grew high on a bush ridge on the east coast. Maori women would go to Te Iho-o-Kataka, as it was called, and clasp it, in order to help conceive a child.

This is not magical thinking. Scientists now know how immersion in forest energy is good for our health. They have actually measured the vibrational patterns of trees and can demonstrate how these vibrations affect the biology of our bodies.

Holding a tree allows a transfer of energy to take place. It is regenerative, restoring health and vitality, all of which is helpful for a woman wishing to conceive and for anyone needing a recharge.


Your connection to the natural world is a precious lifeline, and trees will help you make this connection.


Mana Mountain 2

A tree for you?

In late spring, trees are in full growth, spreading their canopies and putting down new growth rings.

Do you have a favourite tree: one that you can hold, or sit by?

If so, you might like to see how this tree can help you through the busy period between now and Christmas. Go to your tree and discover how it can rebalance your energy, and calm and replenish you through December.

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and 
melodious thoughts descend upon me?

—Walt Whitman

Deepen the connection

Would you like to learn about forest bathing and how to hold a tree?

Would you like to foster a healing connection with nature that will sustain you through all seasons?

Then I would love to have you join me for Sacred Earth, my new online course that will begin in February 2016.

Click here to read all about it.


  1. Christine Carr

    I remember a baby kauri tree growing on a bush hillside in Nelson, which amazed me because it was so far south for a kauri, and I always wondered how it got there. Over the years I watched it reaching above the manuka and many non natives growing around it which must have nursed it through its early years. I used to push through the bush to touch the trunk, feeling the will to grow and survive in a place so far away from its usual environment. The memory of that tree has helped me in my exile from Nelson in the years since.

    • Juliet Batten

      Christine, what a poignant story about how the tree taught you something way back then, and is still helping you. Thank you so much. I’m feeling very moved.

  2. Denny Anker

    The following is a piece I wrote, as you will see, to the Project Manager responsible for rebuilding 13 retaining walls on my property following earthquake damage. Originally I chose a landscaper who would do the work without the use of heavy machinery. Instead I have been obliged to use other services who are bringing in machinery which is laying waste my property, which we have tended for 40 years.

    This is an example of another of the invisible stories of ongoing loss and grief wrought by the earthquakes which the rest of A-NZ knows little about. If you are moved by this, please honour us by reading Fiona Farrell’s book The Villa at the Edge of the Empire.

    TO: Project Manager
    Re: Retaining Walls

    4 June 2015

    If the earthquakes have brought me yet more unavoidable destruction and loss through repair of my walls, so be it – just another unfortunate consequence for me.

    However, I question whether some of that further loss could be avoided. Repairs next door did not require the indiscriminate use of earthmoving machinery.

    I realise that most of modern society has little time for attachment to natural and growing things, and for the most part prefers attachment to technological possessions. Spiritual attachment is often unacknowledged or derided, although there is increasing acceptance of the traditional attachment of Maori to natural features.

    Some of us, including non-Maori, place considerable meaning and value on living things entrusted to our care and guardianship.

    My Judas tree was a gift from my mother. Sitting under her own Judas Tree was one of my mother’s very favourite places and it gave her great comfort. She was a published poet who died in 2000, and the collection of her poems compiled recently by Bernadette Hall, with my assistance, was named The Judas Tree. . . .

    The Judas tree is also called the Love Tree, presumably because of its tender-green, heart-shaped leaves. In late spring the deep pink flowers (somewhat like mini-sweet peas) are produced on year-old or older growth, including the trunk. This, and the fact that the leaves appear shortly after the first flowers emerge make it unusual as well as very beautiful.

    My mother also gave me my white camellia bush because it celebrates women’s suffrage, and my beautifully-scented luculia.

    A friend passed on to me for guardianship his precious little nikau palm – Banks Peninsula being the furthest south that this, our only indigenous palm tree, will grow.

    When we moved into our home, friends connected through a family tragedy gave us the spectacular smoke-bush. Its vivid red leaves in autumn and puffs-of-smoke flowers have delighted us season after season, ever since, and shaded us from the heat of the summer sun.

    For many years our daphne bloomed each August for my daughter’s birthday and I would attach a fragrant sprig to her birthday present.

    The First Love rose was an anniversary gift from my husband who died in 1995.

    Another little rose was moved three times as we made alterations and additions to our home. Only in the last three years has it truly flourished beside the window where I spend most of my time.

    My father, who died 1983, gave us a striking mountain ash which was twice cut to ground level by enthusiastic scrub-cutter wielders, but which clung onto life and kept growing – a lesson in true resilience.

    I have been celebrating my small lemon tree’s first significant crop of around 30 lemons this year – a remarkable achievement given the earthquake-precipitated subsidence around its roots!

    My husband planted and loved the pohutukawa tree and the Christmas lilies.

    You may not find it easy to understand that for me these and other plants are not just plant nursery specimens, but are my treasured friends, and an intrinsic part of my life and wellbeing. They are friends on whose presence I have relied even more since so many of my human friends and family have been scattered far and wide as a result of the earthquakes.

    For the last four-and-a-half years since my professional and active life was abruptly ended I have been largely confined to my home because of illness . . . These friends have become even more important to me in the many hours I have spent resting on a daybed in the north-east corner of my living room, seeking and enjoying comfort from their silent presence and their beauty.

    I acknowledge that the purpose of the work on my house and property is to provide safety and security. I am appreciative that that can happen and if it is absolutely essential that the trees have to be destroyed, I will have to accept that.

    However, I would like to know there has been genuine consideration given to what they mean to me, and to whether their destruction can be avoided or at the very least, minimised.

    I would like you and your contractors to recognise as they, in all likelihood, smash and crash their way over everything in their path, what these friends have meant to me, and that they are irreplaceable in my lifetime.

    Denny Anker

    • Juliet Batten

      Denny, this is so heart-breaking to read. It is such an eloquent plea. I do hope some of those precious plants – or friends, as you call them — have been saved. (I’ve had to edit your piece slightly, to be sure it will fit into the comments format. I’ve put dots to indicate where.) My heart is with you as you do your best to guard these trees and plants.

  3. Catherine

    Dear Juliet
    I am enjoying you sharing your experience of trees and how we can remember to attune ourselves to the beings of trees in our lives. Inspired by this I took a walk today through a bush track behind a monastery nearby and chose a tall strong tree to place my palms upon, In the exchange of our energies I came away feeling a greater sense of groundedness and equilibrium, noticing I was able to breathe more deeply again.

    I intend to pay more attention over the coming weeks to particular trees in my life, in our garden and neighbourhood and see what unfolds.

    • Juliet Batten

      Catherine, that’s so wonderful! It’s amazing how much energy we can receive from trees. I hope you have a good time exploring more of this. Thank you so much for posting.

  4. anne

    Hi Juliet, i often sit under a favourite willow tree, its waving branches reaching down in some places to a couple of feet above the ground. It’s a feeling of being sheltered and protected, comforted. I also sit next to another favourite – a macrocarpa tree – which in contrast is very solid and fixed. This tree gives me a sense of stability and strength. I tell these trees my problems and always receive guidance and inspiration. I have come to rely on them as wise friends and i know they make a difference to my life and have helped me to see what is. Anne

    • Juliet Batten

      Anne, I know just how protective a willow tree can be as I had a favourite weeping willow I used to sit under as a teenager. And macrocarpas are so strong. How wonderful that you have such direct connections with these trees. Thank you so much for these lovely experiences.

  5. Dana Leigh Lyons

    Such a beautiful sharing, Juliet–both with your granddaughter, through your tree connection, and with us, through your telling of it. Thank you.

    Thank you too for kindling my own memories of being amongst trees…in silence…in beauty…in a place full of change. And for suggesting that we find a tree to hold–and to return to. For restoration, healing, solace.

    • Juliet Batten

      Dana, I’m so glad that this brought up happy memories for you. I hope there is a special tree waiting for you in your new home.


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