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Our broken forest is in our hearts and in our children's tears --Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Diana Beresford-Kroeger: The Call of the Trees

--by Awakin Call Editors, May 09, 2020

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a world-recognized botanist, medical biochemist and author (and now filmmaker). She is known for her extraordinary ability to translate scientific complexities of nature for the general public with both precision and poetry. "If you speak for the trees, you speak for all of nature", says Beresford-Kroeger, one of the world's leading expert on trees. She has studied the environmental, medicinal, and even spiritual aspects of trees, has written about them in leading books, and maintains gardens on her property that burst with flora. From a very young age, she understood she was the last voice to bring Celtic knowledge to the New World. Orphaned at age 11 in Ireland, she lived with elders who taught her the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul, all rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality. What follows is a tender harvest of wisdom nuggets from an Awakin Call with Diana Beresford-Kroeger. You can access the recording of the call and the full-length transcript here.

On beginning to acquire traditional Celtic wisdom: After Diana was orphaned at age 12, twenty-two men and women who lived in her area got together and decided she would be taught the ancient laws of Celtic wisdom. "These laws are the laws of wisdom, the laws of telepathy, the laws of meditation, education ... about the medicines of the natural world, and the laws of the trees."

On the shamrock: This was something that St. Patrick picked up, in the centuries after Christ, to bring the ancient Celtic world into the Christian world. It is symbolic of the Triad: the sacred number of three-- the body, mind and soul. “The body we look after, the mind we are careless of, and the soul seems to have walked away. We will have to call the mind and the soul back for each person. When the triad is at work, then you can go into nature, into the silence and everything will come to your door.”

What did you learn as an orphan under the care of the community and the Brehon laws, that allowed you to go from a place of questioning your worth and feeling insignificant, to a place where your love just kind of bursts out of you? “When you have great sorrow and suffering in your life, you become a victim. It's the child inside of you that has been hurt; even in animals, you see this. There is a kind of a shame about this, because you're the black hen in the white flock of chickens. That feeling of shame opens the wounds like PTSD in your life and you don't know what to do about it. Well, down in the Valley of Lisheens, I started to understand that it is only knowledge and it is only wisdom that can heal those great wounds of the soul and of the mind."

She was taken by the 80- and 90-year olds who didn't speak English and took all of that old wisdom and put it into her lap. They put it all into the “aprons” in her life and she chose the things that would help her. “And what helped me was their love… what helped me was that look of love in their eyes. Suffering's not a disease and not catching…A lack of money is not catching. I saw the look of love and they loved children. Children are called little people. I was treated with great warmth.”

She was taken into their houses. “And they weren't mansions. I was brought into the kitchen and they would take a feather wing and brush the fire together and make me a cup of tea and look at me and put a hand on me and smile at me…smiles and smiles, and love are a great healing of the mind.

“Then they realized I was like a stick and…they had to have some good medicine in me. The first was oatmeal and the second was buttermilk. I was asked to drink that. It is an old Irish cure. There are electrolytes in them and they would go into your system and you would feel better and it allows you to fight diseases.”

“Then going up into the valley and getting all the knowledge of the people made me feel like a person. I began to have an impression of myself that I had value, that I had value in life and they impressed that on me.“

“They took me to all the healing areas where the ancient people had their homes. They were never broken by plows for thousands of years. I would go around and they would pick the wild strawberries (Fragaria) and say they were good for the gums. That was my introduction to the aerosols.”

“I was brought to the sea and taught all types of things. The sea is not the sea. It is a great healing site. Chondrus crispus (Irish moss) found in the sea is prickly and I was taught that the mucilage was a great healing of tuberculosis.”

“I was taught about the great ancient hospitals. They did surgeries, c-sections, and treatments for the mind.”

“I was taught all these things, week after week, until I thought I'd burst. What they said was repetition, repetition, repetition makes the (strength) of the mind.”

On one of the principles passed on to her, that all wisdom is equal; every bit, whether it's a song, or a poem, or an altar, or a deep spiritual insight: “The poetry of their song is equivalent to the best Porsche or a flouncing huge house. The value of a word is a temple word. Temple thinking. The passage of imagination. There is nothing that can equal the passage of imagination. They gave a gift of their poetry, the gift of the song (in reference to the gift of song by Owen and Michael Ó Súilleabháin at the start of the call)"

“These are all ancient things and very important. What the plumber does is as good as what the surgeon does. We are all the same. All of us. All of us contribute to the great renaissance of the human family and we are sorry people, if we don't listen to that.”

On her grand aunt Nellie who would fall regularly into a listening meditation, under a tree in her yard, and the special word for the recognition of sentience that exists in the Irish language: 

“The sentience is in the concert harp. The tree is the oak. And (it’s made) from the oak, from the tracheid of the oak, and it's the purest song of old.”

“In my (Granna's) house, she would come out of the house, out of the kitchen door, pass the stone step, by the stable, by the cow shed, a long cow shed, and the cows are all snuffling, and there's a giant, enormous tree and it is--- Fraxinus excelsior (European Ash). That big huge tree cast its shadow on the cow shed. It was enormous and it was lighting with birds and butterflies and all. My aunt would drop my hand and she would come under the tree. She wore woven clothes and had a safety pin on her chest. She would walk up to the tree and she would do it like she did with the hens. You treat all birds with great, slow movements, not to startle them. She would walk up the tree slow and a great silence fell between her and the tree and the meditation brought her soul, her mind into the tree and there was a communion between them, and it traveled in her body.”

“She became like a statue. And like a dog to its owner, the tree was coming to her. I can't do it very well. It was like a trance. And the cows chewing cud and the horses would all just fade away into this silence. It was like a consciousness shared. The consciousness held her to me, me to her and her to the tree. After a while she would come out of it. She would rub her hands on her apron, and she would turn to me and say…little girl, we have to go back to work. And that was a holiday to her. It was a holiday for her body, and she was always happy after that, cheerful. We would go make a cup of tea and that was the softest day.”

How did you approach the study of the of the natural world, primed as you were, by your experience in Lisheens? “I pulled on the strings of simplicity. The simple life of simple people. I was one of them. I understood the meaning of simplicity. You are rich in what you don't want, when you're simple. You're very rich.."

“And then, I turned and looked at science. My uncle, who was Ward of the Court, had a house of 10,000 books. We read to each other at night. That started me thinking. Everything has vast simplicity to it.”

"The elegance of science is extraordinary, almost miraculous."

“Then I went into science and it's almost miraculous. That you could bend your body and sit on a chair is an extraordinary act of biochemistry. It is in you, and in the same pattern, in the tree (she is speaking of DNA). There's a little difference, but not a whole lot.”

“The act of sitting there, drinking, thinking means that there's quantum mechanics working.”

“You go out into the sun, you raise your face to the sun, and what is happening is that the oxy form, the two-bonded form of vitamin D is sitting, waiting on your skin, for the sun. And the sun lands on that molecule, on your skin, changes it to the full-blooded form of vitamin D. Then you are healthy, your body slugs it right in, in a great big gulp, it goes into your body, and it sequesters itself in all the major organs. You're healthy! My God, where did that design come from? How did that happen?!”

“There are miracles around you, in your children, dogs, cats. You look on the expression on their faces and you know everything. There's a communion going on between you and me, and you and humanity, and you and the world around you.”

“And consciousness. There is a shared consciousness among us, but we haven't gotten there yet. These things are extraordinary to me. So, I've studied everything I could.”

“You name the chemistry and I've studied it, but I put it on the road of simplicity. Don't let anybody fool you when they say it's complicated because it is not.”

On the philanthropy of knowledge. As fast as Diana gained it, she was giving it away, in different ways, to people who could not necessarily grasp with the ease that she did: “I do it today. (After an academic asked her to explain something to him), “I gathered my pots and pans and did a demonstration. You start with simplicity and you go on to simplicity.”

On trees: “To understand something, you have to know your history. To understand a forest, you have to know its history… The forest started 400 million years ago, when there was too much carbon dioxide. If you were to turn that on today, we would all be dead, but the trees came into life. The trees began to understand the pattern language of DNA.”

“What happened is that the design of the tree is unique, it has a canopy. Have you ever asked yourself why is there a set of leaves on trees? The canopy moves toward the sun, by means of an attachment, like a little elastic band, the petiole, of the branch that moves with the sun…Why is this leaf moving towards and with the sun? There's an extraordinary thing that happens in the tree. The tree has tissues (palisade tissue) like your kidneys, great big sacs, and the green of the tree is called chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is exactly like your hemoglobin with one metallic difference - magnesium instead of iron."

"Now we are going into quantum mechanics! In that chlorophyll, you have the quantum mechanics of the magnesium atom, at the centre, just like a diamond in a ring. And that diamond is capable of going into two forms of life. At the same time. One, it receives the light from the sun and it clicks, like a click-clock tock, takes that energy from the sun, and moves it farther into the leaf. And it moves it into the chlorophyll. And in the chlorophyll, what happens is, the molecules around the central nerve, the metal centre, goes into a more excited state. Just like the electricity in the wires around you, right now. So it sucks up the energy from the sun. This is a quantum state that the leaf is in."

"That's how a tree grows. That is is how a tree produces food. That is how a tree feeds all mammals. That is how a tree does something really extraordinary, in my opinion; the carbon dioxide goes into the molecular area, and it gets cut in two by the energy of the sun, and also into carbon and oxygen. The carbon goes into the main muscles of the tree. The main body. The wood of the tree. And the oxygen - two atoms joined together in a little marriage called the molecule of oxygen, flows out into the atmosphere. That oxygen is being used and reused and reused for 400 million years. It is now in your lungs. That is the thing that keeps you alive."

If we cut down the forests, we cut down our source of oxygen. If we cut down our source of oxygen, there will not be life on the planet.

That's the importance of the trees, the community of the trees. The mantel of the planet, Earth has to have that. If you take that off, you take off 60% of the oxygen of the atmosphere away.”

“That’s the importance of the great forests. Down there in California, you have probably the best of the best and you have been cutting them down!”

“All we have to do is pull carbon out of the atmosphere and we can use a tree to do it.”

On the connection between the oceans and the forests: “Look up at a tree and you see leaves, and the leaves fall in the autumn, fall on the ground. Have you ever asked why? There's a chemical that comes into the tree. The same chemistry that is in your face, giving you color in your face, the same chemistry is in the tree, the same structure."

“The leaf lands on the earth. The earth is brown, different colors, same as our faces. A compound in the leaf is humic acid and it's a big molecule. Part of that is fulvic acid and it can do an extraordinary thing. It can pick up iron from the ground, it’s a chelating agent.”

In general terms, the land is rich in iron and the sea is poor in iron. And water flows off the land into streams, lakes, rivers, oceans -- and carries the water-soluble iron into the sea. There are forests of all kinds of algae in the sea. In California, you have an extraordinary system. The iron goes into the sea and that's how you get algae in the sea, forests in the sea; they are the micro-elements that are the feeding foundations outside your door, where the great whales come to eat. The iron comes in and it's all in the water, but when night comes, a switch comes in the ocean. The night means no light into the ocean, and darkness initiates an enzyme that sucks up the fulvic acid and iron, and begins to form protein. When you have lots of protein, all of the orders you get -- division, reproduction, multiplication and that is the feeding foundation of the ocean -- the basis for the fish, mammals, birds, everything in the ocean. And it comes from the land! When you have poverty, drought, lack of land, then you have poverty in the seas. There are the threads of simplicity I'm pulling for you right in front of your own eyes.”

On her books, the bioplan and a WHO-sponsored publication on trees and forest therapy: “My books are peer reviewed and that's my way of getting my work into the public hands. Those books are important for you to have in your hands.”

“In California, you have the best trees there. One tree gets planted -- one native tree per person in a household, for the next 6 years and we'll run the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere from 400 ppm to down into the 300s. And that buys us time. (It) stops all the anxiety over the weather patterns, re-glues the ice, makes potable waters. It will recheck the planet back into reality.”

“Go out into the forest and do forest bathing. This is proven with the blood (studies using blood samples) and it gives you protection for one month (from cancer). We never knew that this was the case. It has been proven by cloud studies, cloud chamber studies and under the auspices of the World Health Organization. I've done a lot of research in cancer myself and I'm really interested in this and if I can stop one person from getting cancer, then this book would have been worthwhile.”

Diana’s suggestion is for reading her books, listening to her lectures or attending her classes, and watching her documentary, ‘Call of the Forest’. She says, "It's like listening to Mendelssohn or Liszt. Take it in slow doses!"

Awakin Calls is a weekly interview series and community podcast that highlights the work and inner journeys of individuals who are transforming our world in large and small ways. Each call features a moderated conversation with a unique guest. Past interviewees include a calligraphy artist, a path-breaking neurosurgeon, an evolution biologist, a pioneering venture capitalist, and a socially conscious hip-hop rapper. Awakin Calls are ad-free, available at no charge, and an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the principle of "Change Yourself. Change the World."     


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