Tree Dream: Trees are Part of the Earth’s Nervous System (part 2)
This entry continues the story from my last post.
Having long known that trees are the lungs of the Earth, I was just beginning to grasp that they are part of her nervous system as well. This knowledge, transmitted directly from the trees, was confirmed five years later when I happened to pick up a copy of Sun magazine and read an article about biologist Paul Stamets’ work.
Based in Olympia, WA, Stamets has devoted his life to studying mushrooms and mycelia, or the webs of fungi’s networked fibers. These organisms partner up with other plants, including trees, for mutual benefit; the partnerships are called mychorriza. The fungus breaks down nutrients that can then be more easily absorbed by the roots of the tree. In turn, the tree releases sugars that the fungus depends on, as fungi don’t photosynthesize. One Douglas fir tree may form mychorrizal partnerships with 2,000 species of fungi.
In his book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Stamets says:
I believe that mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long term health of the host environment in mind… These networks not only survive, but sometimes expand to thousands of acres in size, achieving the greatest mass of any individual organism on this planet.
After reading this, I dreamt for three nights of being held in the net of tree roots beneath the surface of the Earth, feeling deep connectedness. Re-entering the dreams through a shamanic journey, I experienced the mycelial networks directly:
My spirit allies take me down into an underground cave. Others arrive; I am moved to have them all present. They put me in the middle of the circle. I sink down into earth, connect to the fine roots of trees, which show up as white threads. I start to swim in the brown richness of the soil, bathed in the neurotransmitters secreted by the mychorriza, feeling calmed, nourished. This deep layer is the nervous system of the Earth. Disrupting and thinning it causes neurological damage to Earth that is immediately reflected in our nervous systems. Is it any wonder that we’re all so damaged by mental illness, abuse, depression, trauma – that humans are so out of balance? We damage the Earth’s nervous system, which damages our own, which brings us to further damage the Earth.
I also understand that trees are literally “standing on their heads”; their primary neurological tissue is under the surface of the Earth. This is where they dream from. Swimming in this deep brown layer, I am in the trees’ dreamtime.
We can create the capacity to dream ourselves back to health – and we can help heal the dreaming tissue of the Earth. Who among us can imagine the restored power of the dreaming trees, the dreaming Earth? As we learn to dream with and for them, we become whole.