When I am sad, I like to imagine myself becoming a tree. Branches that bend without breaking, fractal with possibility, reaching resolutely toward the light. Roots touching the web of belonging beneath the surface of the world, that majestic mycelial network succoring and nurturing and connecting tree to tree — connection so effortless, so imperturbable, so free from the fragility of human relationships.
After writing about wintering trees as supreme teachers in resilience, I received a lovely note from a reader in England — theater artist, movement director, and Hatha Yoga teacher Andrew Dawson, a former student of Merce Cunningham’s. He shared a kindred-spirited film he had made, in his words, “for those who are reaching for something more but can’t quite grasp it, for those on their journey, not yet at their destination.”
It salved me profoundly, this meditative visual poem — part David Byrne, part Bill T. Jones, and detail Buddha — radiating Hermann Hesse’s century-old wisdom that “whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree [but] wants to be nothing except what he is.”
Commissioned by the London International Mime Festival, filmed by Dawson’s son, Roman Sheppard Dawson, and featuring music by composer Jonny Pilcher, the film was inspired by a line from a short lyrical essay titled “Close” from poet and philosopher David Whyte’s superb collection Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (public library) — a book of lyrical reanimations of language that touched me deeply when I first read it several years ago (and for the recent English edition of which I had the honor and joy of composing the introduction). We live by unconsciously measuring the inverse distances of our proximity.