• sarahschmalenberger

Do the trees sing?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Swaying along with the trees, arms outstretched, singing to and with the wind.


MUSIC. It has always surrounded and permeated me, steady and constant as the air, its presence unmistakably distinct from all other senses. Sadly, a moment arrives in all children’s lives when their inborn conduit to the universe’s sounds gets switched off. It never shut off within me, though. Perhaps I was wandering in the woods singing when the other children were rounded up and turned (tuned?) off.

“I talk to the trees, but they don't listen to me...”

Oh, Clint Eastwood, what a cheesy tune you had to sing for that western musical, Paint Your Wagon (1969, LINK ) Perhaps you should have tried listening to what the trees had to say first, before you demanded so much of them.

Trees, it turns out, do communicate

The wood-wide web”

An essay in Smithsonian Magazine (March 2018) interviews a forester from Germany who has verified an underground fungal network that connects trees along a web. Fascinating, check out the essay at this LINK.

No, I am not the Tree Whisperer

But I did - and still do - discern musical patterns of timbres, even pitches, when I listen with true quietude to the wind rustling through trees. This was the first music I remember hearing as a child. It spoke to me of universal belonging, not to my family but of all creation.

In Songs of a Wounded Princess, I describe the foundations of my musical hearing in the sounds of the woods surrounding my childhood home. There was a neighbor down the road who talked to the birds and critters in her garden. Wasn't music to my ears but I figured if she could hear stuff and communicate back in her way, then so could I

But I kept this aspect of my inner hearing a secret.

How about you, blog reader, are you a musician who heard (or still hears) melodies and rhythms in things beyond a musical instrument?

Yes, I Still Hear Them

December 2020

The pandemic sent us outdoors more often. I had a lot of angst to walk off, from the virus and politics and protests (George Floyd was murdered here in the Twin Cities) to the bullying from jerkwad co-workers. Dave and I both felt better after walks, and we ventured out more and more, exploring the extended neighborhood. Trails and a nature preserve down the street became regular sites to walk off whatever pissed us off that day.

And on one of those days, we discovered a sanctuary. A quiet curve of a street that had no houses, only the backs of yards. Cottonwood, birch, ash, and elm trees, stretched far above and over into a canopied tunnel of gorgeously peaceful respite.

I stretched up my arms, rejoicing in their communal hum.

Sometimes, as we drive home, Dave will open the sunroof so I can stand up on the carseat and reach out and up. He drives slowly through "the pretties" as I get my fix of humming along with the trees.

Good thing that only trees along this curve of the street bear witness to a scrawny blonde gal standing and saluting them through a Volkswagen sunroof, like some crazed princess on a parade of one float.

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