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Regenerating Cultures – Women Are Like Trees

Regenerating Cultures – Women Are Like Trees

  • Susana Cravo • Consultant & Founder of Kutsaca and Platform

We have recently passed the International Women’s Day and the Mozambican Women’s Day is coming up. I start by honoring(r)- them(us) with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés, poet and psychoanalyst well known by those interested in the theme of the Feminine, as well as her classic Women Who Run with the Wolves:

“Every woman looks like a tree. In the deepest layers of her soul she harbours vital roots that pull energy up from the depths to nourish her leaves, flowers and fruit. No one understands from where a woman draws so much strength, so much hope, so much life. Even when they are cut, cut off, shredded, their roots still sprout shoots that will bring everything back to life again. They have a pact with this mysterious source that is Nature.

Trees are a huge source of inspiration for me. Both in my work and in my personal life they have always brought me insights, sustenance and wisdom. And so it totally resonates with me what Herman Hesse said, “He who knows how to speak to them, to listen to them, that one knows the truth.” I have always found several similarities between Women and Trees (and not only), but today I will focus on them. It is worth starting with a quote from Andreas Weber, German biologist and philosopher, from his recent course “Ecology of Love”: “Ecosystems are love stories. Our deepest ways of relating and feeling, of touching and being touched, are ecological ways of giving life, of loving. When we discover ecology as the vibrant love story it really is, we can unlearn the violent habits of our civilisation.”

Weber argues that we need to drop the neo-Darwinian view that survival and reproduction are the only evolutionary imperatives. This scientific reductionism misses a rich story about reciprocity, beauty and even love. “To love means to be fully alive.” (A. Weber)

In The Biology of Wonder, Weber revisits the fundamental enigma of life, challenging us to understand feeling as the principle of all life, arguing that all living things, like humans, are not biological machines but living, creative agents, powered by meaning and expression. Feelings and emotions are far from superfluous to the study of organisms. They are, rather, the very foundation of life. For Weber, the split between us and the natural world is arguably the root cause of most of the environmental catastrophes unfolding around us. Until we come to terms with the depths of our alienation, we will fail to understand that what happens to nature also happens to us.

“Young people from the More Employment Programme as part of the celebration of Mozambican Women’s Day in partnership with Kutsaca”.

It is also worth bringing here an excerpt from Sophie Strand, a young woman who, with poetry, gives voice to the more than human world, who claims to be more interested in “ensoilment” than in “ensoulment” and who makes us reflect on our prepotency and arrogance for the anthropocentric place we stubbornly occupy:

“We live in a culture that prizes the atomized self, imposing (…) healing on individuals when illness and discomfort (…) (signal) the systems of oppression within which we are trapped like flies in a spider’s web. We think we should heal individually and succeed individually.

We are also taught that we feel and experience individually, through direct contact with our skin delineated corporeality. This phenomenon is known as “healthism” and is defined as the preoccupation with personal health and personal responsibility for health as primary, often to the detriment of the understanding that the health of one person is intimately linked to (and represents) an entire population (human and more than human). Illness, trauma and pain do not belong to an individual. They are a web that includes someone. Similarly, healing is not an object or achievement that belongs to one person. Research on embodied cognition and ecology, microbiology and somatics offers a glimpse of something more propagable (and full of “leaks”/leaks) than the modern idea of a self-preserved self.”

All Trees and Women know cyclicality. They know what it is to live through the different seasons. And of how important it is to be able to rely on the support network of the Forest….

The importance of relationship, of pattern, of reciprocity, of experience, instead of the focus on the individual(s) and the object(s), that Gregory Bateson among others already brought us, and the porosity of all the elements of the system, open our perception to the intricate complexity of Place and its history. And that is what Regenerative Development is about: it helps us understand Place as a living system, in permanent evolution. From this understanding, we also gain insight (and humility) about what our role in the Place or system is, so that we can move towards realising the best potential possible.

On the other hand, this also neo-Darwinian prejudice that evolution is an ever-forward arrow does not correspond to the truth. Evolution can be bifurcation (this way or that), but it can also be dispersion and fusion (this way and that, this and that). In a sudden, unpredictable, sometimes chaotic way, exchange, reciprocity happens, giving rise to a new being, a new life, a new experience.

Lichen, algae, bacteria, fungi are proof of this. So are trees. And Women.

Besides the most evident and beautiful exchange relationship, through the oxygen we breathe and their capacity to absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale, transforming what is toxic for us back into fertile soil, there are already several investigations accessible in different contexts on how Trees communicate with each other and care for each other, not only between Ancestors (Mothers) and small offspring, but also between Families vastly connected by their roots, which have their own language, imperceptible to us, but highly powerful and mirroring much of what is the Feminine and life itself.

They are clearly an example of cooperation – Trees of the same Family not only do not compete with each other, they warn each other of perceived danger and help nearby neighbours by sending water and other nutrients through the mycelium. In addition to establishing meaningful relationships, they have memory and know sensations, registering them in the way their inner rings (or fingerprints) weave, in the way they open their branches (or arms) to life, and in the fertility they offer the ecosystem. They enjoy being together, creating beautiful and vibrant Forests, nurturing and sustaining life. They are guardians and, as the proverb says, “they do not deny shade even to the woodcutter”.

All of them – the Trees and the Women – know cyclicality. They know what it is to live through the different seasons. And how important it is to be able to count on the support network of the Forest, both in the most difficult moments, and in the moments of pure sharing, conviviality and celebration.

They know deep pain and ecstasy, are capable of experiencing apparently opposite emotions simultaneously and carry within themselves a diversity of potential roles. This cyclicality and complexity of the Tree and the Woman are not always understood and especially not respected in the crude, competitive and masculinised world in which we live. It is understood that this masculinised world is fuelled by Men and Women, by hyper-rational thinking, by the deep imbalance between Feminine and Masculine, which I addressed in the penultimate article.

As Joan Halifax says (adapting Thich Nhat Hanh’s original idea), “We are Lotus flowers in seas of fire”.

And behind this massive campaign of Women’s empowerment and the obvious importance of Women in the economy, there is also an extractivism, a level of demand, which is not always compatible with our nature and above all cyclicality. In the ambition of wanting to get everywhere, with our children on our laps, the pot on the fire and the basket (or books) on our heads, we waste time and vitality that we could multiply with more balance, in the service of life, for the entire ecosystem.

See Also

I see a bit of everything. But I will avoid the serious issues and the clichés. I see Women exploiting Women, often in their own Places. I see Women wanting to empower Women in the late afternoon, even though I know they woke up at 5am. I see Women preparing Family and “good” Parties at the expense of other Women’s undignified effort. I see men and women continuing to devalue the time, dedication and preciousness of unpaid and unseen, though essential, work. I see “good” organisations exploiting and sickening their soils and bodies.

I see Women doing Sacred Feminine rituals and not caring for the Earth and Planet. And this cliché is important to leave: I see Women caring for everyone and everything but themselves. But to leave the cliché, I have to add immediately afterwards: I see us all perpetuating the colonisation of minds, bodies and soils, with what we think it is. And as recent posters read: “A Woman’s place is where she wants it”.

But I also see more and more Women supporting other Women, outside their Friends/Family circle, in a discreet way, without propaganda, with genuine intentions and attentive to what they really need and value.

I see more and more Men genuinely supporting Women in the right way.

I see more and more awareness of what is Feminine and Masculine and the importance of the balance between them, in all of us, in the way we relate to life.

I see more and more vibrant Forests, vital to reforest the soul, life and the world.

And just as well, for as hard as it is for us to admit, it is mostly Women who ensure that life goes on – at home, in school, on the land, in war and in the Places of economic, social, cultural and political life that it occupies. We are far from giving them their due value and power, but we are moving towards it, hopefully.

Women are like Trees and “Trees are poems that the earth writes to the sky.” Kahlil Gibran.


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