Tag Archives: Animal

Trees’ party

Recently, I was standing at a party in the dunes with my friend, the sun was slowly rising, the drinks running out, we just collected firewood and we were having a conversation about what life really is. We discussed that if you look at the earths history, land plants and trees have actually emerged quite recently. Knowing that, it suddenly becomes visible that we aren’t that much worse than the other species around. We’re just a bit quicker.

People forget that plants consume rocks. A forest is essentially a layer of dead plant bodies with trees on top of them, which slowly but steadily empties the earth’s crust of its vital mineral content. These minerals slowly disappear into the rivers, then disappear at the bottom of the sea. That way, entire forests slowly make their environment unsuitable to themselves. If you want to keep a planet intact, the best you can do is to sterilize it (and remove the atmosphere and the surface water). No plants, no animals, no change. Just rock.

Nowadays, we humans tend to believe that we are bad, because we blow up the planet. Yet if you compare our behaviour to that of plants, we’re not that different. We pull minerals out of the earth, and work them into a nurturing ground for endless forms and shapes of art, housing, thought patterns divinities and so on. We aren’t doing this over the back of nature: we are nature doing it. Isn’t that what life is? Reshaping the environment into a whole lot of other beautiful things?

While standing at the party in the dunes, my friend exclaimed that life itself is indeed a party. It appears in a vast nothingness, grows, hits an apogee, then starts disappearing. Trees dance, so do we. They consumer rocks, we consume them and all of us knew in advance that one day, the music stops and the lights will go off. It’s fine that, parties don’t go on forever, they’re just parties.

With or without us, sooner or later all life here will die out (by the way, I’m not suggesting we’ll even get close to killing life itself). Does that matter? In a way yes, but in a bigger way not at all. We should be grateful we were once alive. Of course, we as mankind have the option to stop behaving like that one drunk guy who entered his drinking rage, making an enormous mess finishing the booze on his own while heading straight towards a huge hangover full of regrets. That would prolong the fun for others. We could do that. But would it essentially make any difference? I don’t think so. Life will go on, and sooner or later we will all feel great at a new party with a filled up fridge.

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Vegan Challenge

For the coming fourty days, I will eat and drink solely plant-based foods and drinks. I will succeed, except perhaps for a few mistakes out of ignorance (though I just took screenshots of a list of vegan E-numbers, and intend to verify them). It’s not my intention to permanently switch to a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. I don’t consider that necessary, but I do think doing such a challenge is a good idea for everyone. Since it is a topic of discussion these days, let me briefly give my views on some of the arguments.

Eating vegan is the more natural thing to do
Some vegans claim that eating vegan is a natural thing to do. They support this statement by pointing out some of our physiological adaptations to green food, such as our molars to chew, our long intestines to digest greens and our not so acidic stomach. These are supposedly signs that evolution adapted us to a fully vegan diet. For now, all I’d like to contest against this doctrine is ‘Vitamin B12’. That vitamin is vital to our nervous system, but can be found solely in animal products, in some very exceptional algae and in food supplements. The fact that humans would get serious problems (such as blindness) if we don’t regularly ingest B12 pretty much settles the argument for me. And I find the ‘natural’ argument a bit scary in fact. As if ‘cultural’ would be wrong. Depending on your definition, we humans have moved far beyond the ‘natural’. I don’t see that as morally wrong as long as we stay respectful, and I do not support such doctrines.

Eating vegan is healthier
Here’s an argument I haven’t researched that much. So far, I have lived by the principle that my body knows perfectly well what is good for it and what is not. Now that I’m thirty, I do admit that this outlook may be a little naive, since I would supposedly not yet notice the potential long-term damage I did to it in my early years. Yet following my appetite, I noticed that my food choice becomes heavier in winter, containing more meat, and more vegetable-based in summer, when I need less energy and fat to keep my body heated. I consider that a good sign. Of course, I cannot be sure if that is a mental of physical thing. Probably a combination.

Essentially, health is a complex thing. What is healthy for your brain, may be unhealthy for your heart, and what is good for your kidneys may be less good for your eyes or your nervous system. Food scientists discover new impacts of foods every day. Hence, next to following my taste, I have always tried to adopt a balanced diet and eating a bit of everything.

To stay within the discourse on health and veganism, some people use the argument that vegans get sick as soon as they eat a bit of meat. I wouldn’t deny that they get sick, but would look for the explanation in the switch of diet, rather than blaming the actual meat or dairy. And many people have allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions which would fully legitimize certain diet choices. Problems I don’t have, luckily. In the end, I’d say that avoiding illness requires a broader outlook. We should stimulate our capacity to continuously heal ourselves, which in my view is about untightening.

Vegan consumption reduces animal suffering
I’m all for the decrease of animal suffering. Whether an animal suffers or not, depends on how it is treated. Not eating meat at all means turning your back on meat farmers. Buying organic meat of the kind that focusses on animal welfare, on the other hand, stimulates a better practice. It could indirectly stimulate change in the standards of animal treatment in general. Thus using market forces, buying organic meat could decrease animal suffering in a way that eating no meat can’t. Let’s not forget also, that many of the animals we’re talking about would never have existed without us. Provided they enjoy existence, breeding animals could be a good thing. I would say that this conversation should be more about respectful animal treatment than about eating or not eating them.

Killing animals is wrong
I’m not happy that we have to kill other beings to survive, but that’s the bitter truth. Vegans, vegetarians and many others make a sharp distinction between plants and animals. Now, I agree that there are differences between the groups, but there also are plenty of things about plants we do not yet understand. And if there’s one thing in which plants do not differ from animals, it’s in the meaning of death. We are talking about the difference between being held together by life, and falling apart. I don’t see how plants and animals differ under that light. I believe that feeling the life flow out of you is a deeply relaxing experience to all creatures alike.

Vegans’ environmental impacts are lower
I find this the strongest argument against eating animal products (or for the reduction of it). Every step up the food pyramid costs ten times the amount of food and drinks as the previous step did. In other words: it takes 10 kg of grass to create 1 kg of cow, and 100 kg of grass to create 1 kg of human that fed solely on cows, while it would take 10 kg of vegetables. Keeping our position in the food pyramid low will inevitably reduce our impact on the global environment.

There is something unfair about this calculation, however, that I do want to stress. Grass can become new fertilizer. None of the ingested substances truly disappears. All of it will be given back to the atmosphere, the water and the land. The power of the global ecosystem has always been to keep the cycle intact. But: we humans have disrupted the balance, to a point where ecosystems are incapable of dealing with all of our waste. We could, theoretically, compensate for that ourselves and create new cycles that are more adapted to our taste for meat. However, we are far from having created such new cycles at the moment, and many of the valuable nutrients for our food are disappearing into the oceans. Hence it would be better for now to decrease our meat ingestion. Yet in this discussion, we should not forget that many plant products such as coffee, chocolate and plant-based oils have similar impacts on the global nutrient cycles as meat does.

Still taking the challenge
So, if I’m not against consumption of animal products per se, why still take this challenge? Well, first of all, not being anti doesn’t make you pro. I like meat, and not being discriminatory against it is by far the easiest way to go. Reducing my consumption of it is nonetheless still a good idea. Besides, I am not fond of habits that have taken control over me. I take yearly month-long brakes from coffee and alcohol, and I decided to do that with animal-based products as well at least this year. By doing so, I force myself to explore different behavioural patterns, and I expect that my outlook on food will expand. I suppose I’ll have a bigger palette of habits and dishes at my disposal after this period, which will decrease my animal-based consumption without me noticing.

I’m by far not the first of my friends to do something like this. Many have gone before, and I suppose that seeing them do it triggered it in me as well. But this is my choice, and I’m quite sure I will face some small conflicts with myself and society. For a short while, I will look into the faces of the pro-meat camp with the eyes of an anti. That may well turn out to be an interesting experience in itself. I do think I come equipped to disarm potential opponents.

Happiness engineers

If you work at Google nowadays you eat the healthiest food, work out and take naps whenever necessary. Your bosses will avoid conflict situations for you, encourage you to meditate and do whatever else is in their capacity to keep you as an individual happy. Why? When you are happy, your products are better.

In some advanced farms, cows are being trained to choose the timing of their milking by themselves. The machines they use for this system measure milking frequency and milk quality for every cow individually, and continuously adapt the cow’s diet to make her milk as nutritious as possible. The philosophy: every cow has innate needs satisfying those results in happiness and great milk. Such farms save human labour hours because no one has to force the poor animals into milking machines.

Have you ever heard of Plant Lab? This organization advocates that plants don’t enjoy growing in nature at all. The constant combat for light and nutrients and the irregularity of the weather make them stressed and weak. After long-lasting experiments, they have concluded that plants prefer stable, controlled conditions with purple light, the perfect amount of nutrients and a warm gentle breeze . In their arrangement, plants grow faster, are more nutritious and are more resistant to bugs. In fact, their defence systems become so effective, that if you take a seedling out of Plant Lab into the field, you don’t need to add pesticides for a whole month.

These are just three examples of how the performance of living beings is being optimized with support of knowledge and technology.  By paying more attention to the individual wants and needs, providing not more than the necessary, the boss spends less and gains more. The workers are happy. That’s a win-win, right?

Something in that construct itches me, but it’s not easy to place. Perhaps it is the fact that it emerges out of the industrial paradigm, out of the reductionist idea of beings as objects with on/off switches. By taking the experience of this being into account, by listening to it, one respects it in a different way. The reductionist paradigm meets the holistic paradigm, lifting society to an unprecedented state of enlightenment.

I haven’t convinced myself yet. Is it the idea of domineering? By giving someone precisely what he wants, one can control him entirely and use his energy at will. It increases the power of industry owners and mankind in general to a new level that can become scary if the power is in the wrong hands. Then again, if need satisfaction becomes the status quo, the owners are replaceable.

What itches me most, I think, is the fact that over my lifetime, I have learned to appreciate adventure and uncertainty. I have learned that longing for something for a while can deepen satisfaction in life. Perhaps I am afraid that if this trend continues and the emotional turbulence stabilizes, we will forget the beauty of suffering. Yet we luxuriant people have already long forgotten that.

I might just be old fashioned.

Thesis Spiritual Experiences in Nature

For those who are interested, I wrote a thesis in 2011 on spiritual experiences in natural areas in the Netherlands. I got an 8,5 for it. I have have written an abbreviated version for publication, but it was rejected for one or two good reasons and a whole list of quite silly ones. My intention remains to publish it when I have more time. Whenever that may be.

Here it is:

Havik2011ThesisSpiritNature

A Chakra perspective on Evolution

I wrote this text originally for the Ajna forum on January 5th 2010. I have adjusted it a little.

The beginning? There never was. A misconception of the human intellect. Since she is our home, since she gives us ground to live, let’s start with earth’s awakening.

Rocks, fire, water and air; she brought their spirits into one. Little ones started spiralling, exchanging and flowing along. In the water first, but they quickly reached dry ground.

Plants, rooted in their standing place, breathing light and air, eating rocks and drinking water, developed the spirit of the ground. They vaporize earth mass. By growing and dancing in the wind, they have become our base. Their roots to earth are ours. They are our OM, our chakra of the ground.

Walking out of the waters came a new kind of being. Nerved. Choose well or die, that was its quest. Select by moving around. But use the earth, eat the plants, be attached to her. And reproduce: enjoy! Senses arose to help this choice. So developed the sacral chakra.

When ground was filled, a limit reached, a limit to the growth. The ego had to come in play, the will to overcome. Trees fought for light, beasts for terrain. Among, between, there was war to teach us where to stop. Struggling for survival, power raised, the Plexus Solaris got its form.

Among wars and fights, Gaias bigger ones found the power of communal love. In groups, we could reach greater heights. The work was in the heart. The knowledge of all cells: “Together we are one” now grew among the bigger ones. Cultures formed, dividing what to eat. Groups that loved, avoiding fall-apart. Herds arose, bees unite and lions lied in prides.

Now that battle was not the only option anymore, and animals and trees stayed close, new ways had to be found. A realm of signals was discovered in our throats. Noises, charged with meaning travelled up and down the lands. Civilizations attained new levels, by telling and by listening. Behold the birds, the apes and ants. We slowly formed new minds. And then came the morale.

Humans rose, with in their heads: mind´s eye. They killed, destroyed, controlled it all except them very selves. With time they learned about the fish and trees. They learned about the heart and soul, they did it for us all. They saw the past, and that which is to come. They saw it two, they saw it one, they saw that all at once.

And now, when new ones are conceived, they have to live it all again. From little fused cell they grow to creature with a brain. They leave the womb into the void and start: motionless base. They eat, they sense, deny and love, learn speech and thought: get lost.

When one learns, all learn, even if so slow. Together with the cats and birds, together with the plants. Together with the rocks and flames, with water and the air. Together we are Gaia’s growth. And then, maybe one day a creature comes that grows a crown, and opens heavens’ earth new ground.

Conjuress of Dreams

She lives on a mountain, among the clouds. You know whom it concerns. She has us all under her spell. Let’s hope her intentions are good.

It was a hot night when it came to me. Do you know them? Those nights where dreams and wakefulness collide. My life had been a mess so far. I lacked touch. Nobody likes to work behind a screen in a multi-storeyed prison for the soul. Not me at least. I realised that many years later. Things had come alive.

I lived in a dark house. It wasn’t big, but even so there was a room I didn’t thread for years. Filled with memories, filled with mess. Remnants of a life I’d never asked for, yet I could not part with them. A fellow knocked one day. White beard and on his head a black Jaguar’s face. He wore long layered garments: black, white and grey. Sinister though he may have seemed, a spark lit up his eye. There was no formality, no respect and no hesitation. He entered my forbidden room; despair pulled me in after him. He showed me things, these objects of the past. He showed me pains that were long gone. The door was open, just like that. No way could it be shut.

I woke up, my brother called. My mom had died that night. Some force tried to turn me inside out. Filled with guilt I cried about that dream. I cursed this wicked man in robes for opening that door. Hated her on the day she left, for all that she had done.

But how can we be sure? A woman with a gift like hers is bound to go corrupt one day. If she owns us and the darkness owns her, then are we not all doomed to befall?

Dreams are no strange thing to me; I have them all the time. But there was something about this one that caught my attention. Some light that it expressed. It was a vividness inside. It revealed a power hidden not just in the dream, but in my life. Does it matter if I describe the events to you? I honestly don’t know.

A day like all others. I was walking down the street. I live in the city, you see? Picture the streets. Take a city where you feel at home. My sister called, I picked up, she said I sounded strange. Different. More powerful or something. I told her it was because of the dream I had that night. Just like I’m telling you now. She asked what it was about. But I did not answer. She kept asking. What difference does it make? My dream is my dream and it means to me what it means to me. You’d be distracted by the words, by the shapes, by the feeling. You’d give it a twist of your own. But the dream was not yours. I could perceive beyond these shapes and thoughts. Not that they weren’t there… at all! But my relation to them was different. Lighter. I could see through tables and mirrors, through layers of reality to look deeper inside. A different kind of knowing I would say, more visual. I do believe that I saw God that night.

My brother sounded manic that day. I wouldn’t know how else to call it. And do you see? He’s in a hospital now. Delusions of the severest kind. Drawing orbs on walls where he may not, with little pictures inside sometimes. The words he says make little sense. One moment everything is beautiful, the next moment everyone is evil, and the next… Nothing. He sits there; silently, unmoved. For hours! I cannot stand to see him that way. I hope he’ll be better again. It started with that devilish dream.

Should we take it from her? She is doing harm. Have you seen how they ended up? Have you seen them all? There are many. Have you followed them? Do you understand? We should take it, before it’s too late.

It takes courage to cross the jungle on your own, especially for a girl. Courage and some madness perhaps. But I did. The journey was long, timeless it would seem. Past snakes and monkeys. They were listening to me. They sometimes did what I wanted them to. Yet they attacked me. Sharp teeth. Then I fought them off, in rage. They’d stop when I calmed down.

Some trees were impossible to chop. I’d have to climb sometimes. Grab lianas and swing from branch to branch. I was determined to cross these woods and would. I’m sorry for the plants I hurt, for the bushes I broke, but I had no choice; this was a one way road. Then, the landscape changed. It went up. I still don’t know what all these cables were, more and more of them, until all my eyes could see were thick black ropes, all pointing to the horizon. I followed them.

A triangle rose as I approached. It grew bigger and bigger and at some point I must have realised it was a pyramid. A voice when I came near: “enter only when you are ready, else you’ll burn in light”. Isn’t that a weird offer? I came all the way, crossing all this trouble, and then this voice offers you a choice? Of course I entered! I could not even consider the question, so full I was with purpose and drive.

It was a maze inside. Challenges alternated. I saw flames. I felt them. Gentle changes in the pressure of the air. They burned. The red flame burned my clothes. Crossing it left me bare. The green one burned my flesh and bones, the blue flame burned my mind. When I finally got out, I was alone with nothing more than soul.

I heard the voice again. “You are ready now”. I am not sure if what moved next was the pyramid or me. A blinding light shone through. It was a dream that led me here, but now I’m not dreaming anymore. I can’t wake up. This is it. This is where it ends.

Where do we look for her? We could track her traces in the skies. If she does reside in the heights, then it should be easy to find her that way.

What drives a man to take a boat and cross the Atlantic by himself? I didn’t know when I left. But I can tell you, being out there on the big blue, being out there on your own brings you an answer. The waves support a lot. Yet if I’d have to tell the truth, the biggest answers came in my dreams. I wouldn’t be able to explain why these dreams occur so intensely, but I definitely have more attention for them now. I have the time to contemplate them. Or better: I am forced to be with them.

In fact, my decision to take this trip was triggered by one dream in particular. At first I thought this dream was very clear, very literal and easy for me to understand. I had to sail and on my own. But as I lived the choice, as I sweated blood on my boat, the whole perspective changed. I did not take this trip because I understood the meaning of this dream; I took it because I had to figure out.

In the dream I stood in front of a … woman. Under her, enormous waves whirling her robes. I am still not sure if they were made of water. I cannot say. I was compelled. It might have been liquid fire, such potency I sensed in her. Many things occurred silently. Little events of my life passed by, little stories I’d forgot so long ago. Other lives, as if they were my own. She bowed, all that time she bowed opening her arms to me. And then, suddenly, she looked up and watched me briefly. Briefly though she pierced deeper than anyone ever before. Beyond my soul. One word was all she said.

“Sail”

Looking back I may have left to deal with that look. I must admit that I miss it. I’ve never seen it on earth. But it seems such things aren’t meant to last. I left, free to deal with it all. Deal with it at the four winds’ pace.

Keep trying. We’ll find her. We have to. We’ve looked for centuries. I began to doubt.

Arguments for Forest Protection

Do you know what the problem is with nature conservationists these days? The way they treat arguments.

I was once present at a discussion during a course on wildlife management. Students were talking about how to conserve Wolves and Foxes and Bears. At one point it went towards reasons to conserve nature. I said that people do so because they love nature. I wasn’t taken seriously.

Throughout the years, I have been taught to give arguments on why one should protect forests. CO2, biodiversity, erosion, water storage, filtering… You name it, I’ve heard it. They taught me that I should never start a paper about forest protection without an explanation on the arguments to conserve a forest, because otherwise policy makers do not get it. That approach is wrong.

By giving arguments we create an impression that there is a discussion going on. Have you ever heard someone say: “I hate the forest” or ” Dunes, I despise them” or “Let’s bring down those mountains”? There is no discussion. We should protect nature at all costs. Entering this discussion is admitting doubt. There is no doubt.

By giving arguments on why forests should be protected -which is a different story than how– we invite policy makers to dismantle such arguments and counter them. And of course they will; if you think long enough you can argue that Hitler was a pretty decent guy. But the fact here is: there is no discussion.

Of course we should protect our last forests at all costs! Questioning that is questioning the core of our existence. To hurt nature is to hurt ourselves. Of course we should protect it. Of course!

Stop playing this game, society! The only reason you cut trees and destroy bushes is because you think other people want you to. Explain that to the lives you take! Explain it the soul you hurt every time you do. Your soul.

It’ll be glad to hear the arguments.

Awards

It takes some guts for a birch to grow its first branch. So too for Benny. While our little seedling pulls all his courage from the ground, scents travel back and forth through the forest. Seraph the Oak, on the open space a bit ahead, has a message.

“Fellow trees from the forest, the tree awards are about the take place once again. It promises to become a match like no other: the winter was strong and spring has brought us a fair balance of rain and sun. The conditions were perfect for growth and development, so the quality of the top trees will be very high this year.”

Of course, the old oak himself did not benefit that much from the favourable weather. With his years, his growth is slow and constant. He does not compete in the tree awards: he won all awards there are to win hundreds of years ago. As the forests oldest, he now only prepares and presents the contest.

The trees of the forest are exited every year when Seraph spreads the competitor’s scent. Who will be chosen this year? Will the most beautiful tree be Margaret the Magnolia again? Some spread Wilbert the Willow stands a chance for his pose near the pond when sun sets. The most robust tree will go to one of the older oaks, but will it be William or Abraham?

Benny does not mind who wins what. He is growing his branch. Young though he is, he already found a spot on the south east where he receives a lot of sun. His parents are proud and constantly show off to the trees around. “When he’s older, he’ll win the prize of the most adapted tree” says his mom. “Yes, and that will help him grow better, and he will win the broadest tree prize”. Birches usually don’t go for the price for the most robust tree. They stand little chance against oaks and the exceptional baobab winner.

Slowly but steadily Benny pushes the top of his branch out of his trunk. At first, it hurts a little to his thin young bark but his inner urge persists and he keeps pushing. The branch wants to go down: it has no support. But Benny the Birch would like it to grow upwards. He turns it a little. And back. And up. It’s like a game with a pull to the ground. Not aware of the big events that are about to take place.

The Tree Awards have become the most important social event of the year. They take place from dawn till dusk when the day is longest in the open space in the middle of the forest. Trees can’t walk there of course, so they send chemical signs, which are received by Seraph the Oak, who then signals back the decision of the forest community. None of the trees in the forest know exactly how it works but it yields outcomes every year and trees don’t really care about objectivity.

Nor does Benny as he carefully gives his first branch shape. He has no concept of an eye catching branch, he does as he feels fit. Grow a little. A branch. Left and right and back again. Into the sky he reaches. Happily stretching out his cells. Yes. He likes it. It is fun to grow.

“It is important that we grow” echo the scents through the air. “We should all be as close to the sky as we can. This is why we originally sowed the Tree Awards.” Over time, of course, they added some categories so that more trees would feel they could be part of the game, but the greatest tree award is without a doubt the most prestigious award in the forest. Some say that without these awards, trees soon forget to grow. There needs to be stimulation, or the forest might get lazy, which cannot be the Intention. Tree Awards are the summit of forest society. Its ultimate expression. The pride of our age. And be honest: where would we be without it?

Benny is about to grow a leaf on his branch. Leafs are quite different and they take a different effort to grow. Benny knows how. He’s done it before. You start with a little packed ball. In it, you grow little nerves, connecting all the parts of the ball. Main nerves and side nerves. It’s important that you grow them such that they don’t stick together. Once you feel secure about the nerves, you connect them with green tissue. Then, all that’s left to do is that you push. You pump fluids into the nerves and they’ll unroll into a leaf and you enjoy the light. Keep pushing and it’ll grow bigger. Benny likes to grow leafs. They make him feel good. He grows a few more.

Leafs are important in the Tree Awards. They show the quality of the tree that holds them. It is common knowledge among trees that leafs are vital for growth. With dark green leafs, more sugars are made and more energy can flow. But dark leafs get hotter than light leafs and they burn more easily. So there’s a risk involved, which makes the whole story even more exciting, particularly for adolescent trees. It wouldn’t be the first time that an audacious young one takes that little step too far and ends up with fiery leafburns.

That’s not Benny’s concern. His tiny leafs are always lighter than those of his older brothers and sisters. His parents are proud of anything he grows. If a leaf would grow too dark, his parents quickly grow a branch above, just to make sure he is ok. Benny doesn’t realize that.

Winners of the concourse receive a fair amount of nutrients. Other trees will transport it in their direction through their roots or drop some leafs when the wind blows towards them. Being winners, it is trusted that they’ll use them wisely.

Benny takes his joy in growing another root. Roots are funny because the ground is full of bugs who tickle from below. To grow a root, Benny has to pierce the soil and dig between their homes. The bugs don’t seem to mind that much, they simply move aside. Benny is happy about that because he likes bugs. When he’s big, he’d like to house some ants.

Dawn arrives. “Fellow trees of the forest,” Seraph’s scents set off a chain reaction among every Birch and Beech around. The hedges listen silently. Their competition does not take place till fall. “The Tree Awards have started. Please prepare yourself for the first vote”. Except repetition and amplification of Seraph’s words, the forest remains silent as can be. These words are always deeply respected; no tree dares to bring in anything now. Except Benny. He just hurt himself on a thistle’s thorn and now he’s crying for his mom. Mom strokes Benny with her branch. But she is not as soft and caring as usual. Never mind. She pushed the thistle away and Benny is free to play again.

To interpret the voices of the forest is a skill that requires hundreds of years to master. There are very few who can. You can imagine the great awareness needed to listen to all the trees in the forest at once. Those who have that awareness have great responsibility. Seraph is one of them. He has developed a sensitivity few can imagine. It’s as if a part of him is present at all spots at once. All trees of the forest feel him. That is why he is assigned this important task. Of course, he is not alone. Seraph relies on a network of older trees present all through the forest. Together, they quickly digest the messages of their surroundings and pulse the results back into the air.

Even at his age, Benny adds to this networking cloud of consciousness. Few take note of his infantile, unstructured expressions. His parents and grandparents perhaps, but barely, during the year’s most important event. Benny does not mind, especially now that a butterfly landed on his new branch. Benny is not that fond of butterflies. Flappy creatures he finds them. He doesn’t know yet how destructive their larvae can be. For the moment, this butterfly has no interest in Benny. He just flaps around, leaving Benny dizzy at the spot.

“We will start today,” Seraphs clear and strong chemicals spread “with the golden bark award. Please place your vote about who you think deserves the award of creator of the most remarkable bark of the forest”. The award for the most respectable bark was introduced not so long ago by a community of cork trees, just down the hill. Cork trees adore the bark like no other and they would do anything to do part of it for the forest’s assembly of respected items. Soon after this introduction it turned out, unfortunately, that their view of the most respectable bark differed somewhat from the forest’s public opinion. No Cork tree ever won the award. “Trees and Treeesses, the vote was expressed”.  Even if this is not the most important award these words raise the tension enormously. The trees of the forest know that the awards have begun. “And this year’s winner of the golden bark is…” this is the most decisive moment of the awards for the Corks. “Quinten the Plane”.  A small cheer from a corner of the forest. “This years bark prize was based on Quintens exceptionally beautiful pattern”. Admitted, he’d been working hard to make his mosaic smooth as he could. Just down the hill, the cork community cries injustice. They voted for several trees in their community, none receives the prize. It’s not fair.

Till now, Benny the Birch had little a bark at all. Lately he had the idea of becoming a bit more woodier, so he did thicken somewhat around the edges. But his is far from the impressive white bark which his brother Jim the Birch brags about all the time. Jim secretly hoped for this prize. Benny had no clue, he enjoys growing one more leaf. That bark will come.

On the open spot, Seraph the Oak continues his careful process of interpreting. Wally the Walnut-tree goes nuts when he wins the golden nut. The golden flower goes to Maggie the Magnolia, with Edward the Elderblossom as a close second. Fanatic cheers and shouts alternate each other in a wavy sea of scents.

For the first time in his centuries old existence, Seraph grants the greatest tree award with a fundamental doubt. “Are these awards a good thing? Aren’t we needlessly benefitting the strong? Shouldn’t we be fertilizing the weak instead”. These thoughts usually occur to a queer tree in a dark corner of the forest. But Seraph has this thought and when a tree has a thought it cannot withhold it. So it is expressed.

The cheering ends abruptly, making space for a vast silence in the woods, interrupted only by some disrespectful birds. Noisy creatures they are.

This never happened before. Not from a tree of this status. Questioning our forests pride.

When he has to speech, Abraham Oak, winner of the golden tree, does not know what to say. Nor does any other tree of the forest. It remains silent.

Benny is about to grow his second branch. It will take guts.

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Henk’s leaving

He went to the chimps, dear Henk. Once again he left us, but this time for good. Into the forests of Africa.

He arrived years ago. Static and still. Iron Henk was his name, given by Alexander during an excursion on an island in the North. At the time he seemed impossible to move.

Henk’s family owns a farm. A milkfarm. With cows. Most of his old time friends have stayed in his youth time village. Henk moved away. Not far away, but into a different world. The intellectuals. They too can be friendly.

So friendships grew. Later, when Henks house was on the list of buildings to be brought back to the ground, he came to live with us and we got to know him. Even if he doesn’t always express it, Henk is a very active man. He took care of big parts of the garden and of the animals. Organizing big events at the side. Full of surprises.

One day, Henk and I took up the task of moving some chariots full of willow branches from a parking lot. “How will we discharge it?” I asked. “Well… we could tip it over…” Joy in his eyes. Two meters high, two meters long and a meter wide; he made a massive device into something quite small.

You usually don’t hear it in his voice or see it in his movements, but through the years you learn to tell. Henk is driven by a tremendous will to live and enjoy. No roles, just Henk. We’ll miss him.

Addiction to the Real

I have a love-hate relationship with reality. Don’t get me wrong, I like reality, but I often think of it as being too addictive. I tend to blame myself for the things that go wrong and I usually explain them with the thought that I overly engaged in just a single aspect, without taking the whole into account. I narrow myself down too much.

If I feel tired for example, down and low on energy, I tell myself that this has to do with the coffee I drink, the beer of yesterday, or the orgasm I had earlier. Usually such self complaints come together with the notion that I did not enjoy these things enough, and am therefore in need for more. But this need gets harder to satisfy the more you do something. I have the same with losing time or working behind the computer or hunting for a job. And it’s not like the voice in my head always wants me to do these things, but they happen. Perhaps as a response to my own will to control the urge to act like an animal.

I have nothing against animals, but I did have my favourite cat castrated. It’s exactly that. I try to domesticize the human I encounter when I wake up in the morning. I try to adapt this human to the society I choose for it. This way, I can have it receive the soft comfort of the metropole. Yet the only way to do that is by not allowing it to hunt after it’s desires.

What you are witnessing here now, is an attempt to conquer an unexisting land. I am trying to belong to something I can never enter. The answer lies deeper than this, I know, but even if I am a calm person, I don’t always have the peace of mind to look. Distracted by a world which I know is illusory. A world to which even these words belong.