Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading and experimenting with traditional forms of agriculture (pre-industrial agriculture’s introduction of pesticides/chemical fertilizers/genetic manipulation) that I have recently felt the need to create presentations on landscaping and tree care that some label “rebellious.”
As I perceive my audience responding to my presentation, I turn to one of two imagined scenarios. If I detect individuals in the audience displaying signs of resistance and questioning my message, I pause my presentation and acknowledge my ideas can be considered “treason” with respect to what they’ve heard from other speakers. Conversely, if I sense individuals in the audience embracing my message and making connections in their minds I pause for a moment and acknowledge that with such open-minded acceptance of the “treeness” of a tree, there’s the possibility that we can let go of control and co-create with nature – in short, “tree-zen.”
Admittedly, the two imagined venues are diametrically opposed. When it’s clear that my message is considered treasonous, my mind conjures up an image of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia, mid-1700s, where I’m addressing a group of rebellious arborists upstairs in the Apollo Room (a room where later Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry will meet to discuss truly treasonous actions against the Royal Governor and the Crown of England). When an audience is sympathetic and supportive of my message, my mind conjures a peaceful spiritual eco-village in Findhorn, Scotland, on the coast of the North Sea. The venue is inside a small, round Hobbit-like home that once held 9,000 liters of Speyside whisky. Most of the spirits that now occupy the barrel sit comfortably on a pillow-strewn wooden floor.
[It probably hasn’t escaped the reader that although these settings are significantly different with respect to time, politics, and location, they do share one commonality – a faint smell of whiskey in white oak wood floors.]
Though my audiences can detect my passion for the topic, they’re unaware of the surroundings in which they’ve been placed. I’m the only one privy to the heightened awareness that accompanies each scenario. It’s a pity my audience is unable to smell pipe tobacco mixed with smoke from the fireplace or the tension in the room when all eyes look at the door after footsteps are heard coming up the stairs leading to the Apollo Room. Nor do they know the faint smell of burning incense and bird song mixed with distant wind chimes of a new age spiritual retreat. As I begin one of my more progressive talks, I’m ready to proceed down either imagined pathway; it’s my audience’s response that determines how I will deliver my material.
I find it fascinating that although the overall content of my talk remains relatively the same for both imagined venues my pace of delivery and examples vary. The pace of my treasonous talk is delivered rather quickly with an eye to the door to see if this is the night I’m arrested! Conversely, my delivery of the tree-zen talk consists of numerous long pauses to let my words, and unspoken intent, resonate with those in attendance. When encouraging arborists to focus on trees as part of a larger landscape ecosystem and to work within that context to recommend appropriate care, my message may turn treasonous, challenging those in attendance to abandon even the thought of using pesticides, chemical fertilizers and the mindset that has allowed for environmentally unfriendly and unsustainable prolongation of selfish landscapes. Conversely, the audience receiving the tree-zen presentation learn of trees forming socialist networks with the aid of microorganisms, above and below ground, to achieve a level of intelligence and resilience that researchers are only just beginning to understand.
I’ve made friends with these two fanciful scenarios. They’re before me every time I write an article or prepare a new presentation. One might think I prefer the harmony that accompanies a training with like-minded audiences in the serene setting of a new age community, but that would mean missing the spirited debate and healthy criticism that accompany the exchange of ideas in the Apollo Room. Yes, I’m of two minds with my presentations; I’ll continue to embrace this duality and divide my time between treason and tree-zen.