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The Wishing Tree

Some ideas take hold of my mind like wildfire. And like wildfire they burn. The best ideas for me are the ones that cause both beauty and pain. Sometimes I fall in love with a thought so hard and so intensely I have to shut it down. It’s too much for my mind to open up to all at once. Like moment you realize something you have been longing for is about to materialize.

The anticipation is overwhelming.

Often, in response to the discomfort of the intensity of longing, I shut it down.

I turn off the podcast, close the book, switch the channel, and if possible go for a long hard walk. I am fairly certain it is a scarcity response: the idea is too good, too powerful; better to save it for later and not consume it all at once.

Listening to Sophie Strand was like that.

In an interview with Kamea Chayne on the Green Dreamer podcast, Sophie talks about the link between oral cultures, mythologies, and ecosystems. It was for me a mind expanding conversation. It provided my mind with new forms and words to pre-lingual thoughts floating around in my head. Sophie weaves together ecology with mythology, allowing each one to inform the other.

“And the really interesting thing about fungi, that they teach us, is they don’t have a distinct morphology. When you pour them into an ecosystem, they find the best shape that maps the relationship. They’re a cartography of relationships. So they teach us a lot about how although we think we are individuals, we really are embedded in environments that are shaping us constantly. And we’re probably going to be most resilient and most healthy when we acknowledge that embeddedness.”

It is just after this part of the conversation that she heads into the Devonian age where plants emerging onto land had no roots. It was fungus that taught plants how to root and live together. She refers to it as “a fungal collaboration, of a multi-species, interpenetrative, anarchic, inter-corporeal, long-lasting, collaboration.”

I stopped the podcast. It was too much for this brain. Too beautiful, too much goodness, too much in my mind cracking open at once.

That night I dreamt of a Wishing Tree.

The notion of a Wishing Tree comes from my adolescence where I was deeply influenced by Arthurian legends. I read the poem below when I was 14. Back then all my longing was focused around leaving the place I was living, and Camelot offered a wonderful idea for escape:

In quest of Beauty I rode far,
With dreams for guide, and a falling star,
A leaping stag and a golden bee:
I found you under a wishing-tree.

I know the road to Camelot,
By leafy glade and ferny grot:
You know, by flash of song and wing,
The silver birds of which I sing.

In Beauty's service still I ride
By grassy track and curling tide.
Now every wood has its wishing-tree
And every rose her golden bee.

Theodore Goodridge Roberts 

Between Sophie Strand and this poem my dreaming mind sprouted a little seed in the sidewalk crack left abandoned from the podcast.

In my dream there was a tree whose roots are connected all around the world. This tree knows all and can share all knowledge. The Wishing Tree has the capacity to hold all things, because they are rooted in a mycorrhizal system connected to and facilitated by fungus. In light of that, the seeker makes the wish and the tree takes that information and sends it the world over. All the animate world takes into consideration the wish. Whether the wish “comes true” is not important. The important thing is for the person to say their wish to the tree and let it go from there. Humans are not meant to hold onto longing because they do not have a mycorrhizal system and cannot have the perspective needed to hold pain like that. It is best for humans with longing to find a wishing tree.

Since dreaming this, I have gone back to finish the podcast. Along with Sophie Strand I have encountered other incredible brave voices transforming the landscape of my mind. Between Sophie Strand, Bayo Akomolafe, Alnoor Ladha, Vanessa Andreotti and Ayesha Khan my mind is being made wild with a new ecology of ideas.

More here.

As these ideas take hold, I feel my art practice is moving from site specific installation, venturing towards what I now understand to be a social practice through ritual, letter writing, and art-as-lifestyle practices.

I am so looking forward to where 2023 takes me.

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By alexandraross

I am a contemporary artist in rural Manitoba.

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