Nov. 16, 2013: I officiated a civic tree-blessing ceremony on the bayou. We had a real-live fire dancer and Big Chief David Montana led us in singing “Indian Red.” Still can’t believe this really happened. It seems remarkable that someone like me, without any relevant credential, would be invited to do something like this. Many thanks to Jared Zeller et al for pulling this together. And thanks to Michael Homan for taking these photos.
Thank you, Persephone & Aliyah. Our friends Persephone & Aliyah will be ringing the bell during this ceremony.
Hello, everyone, and thanks for being here with us.
On this day we are stepping outside our daily routine and coming together for a special purpose: to celebrate the presence of a new tree here in our urban milieu.
Today, we are asking you to consider this tree not only as a member of our community, but as a part of our family — our very very extended family.
With today’s celebration we express our hope that this tree will be sustained and nourished, that she will thrive and flourish here on the banks of Bayou St. John.
Tree, may you grow strong and tall;
May you provide shelter and shade to weary passers by;
May your roots grow deep in the earth to provide a firm foundation;
May your branches spread and provide a home for birds and squirrels;
And may you always be surrounded by true friends and devoted family.
Today, throughout this ceremony, we are we call upon the four ancient elements and the four cardinal directions to symbolize our intentions and our goodwill, that this tree may prosper and grow and enjoy this planet’s life-giving gifts.
(Celebrants form circle around tree.)
We begin with Earth —
(Each celebrant place a pinch of potting soil at base of tree.)
May this tree be blessed by the deep and fruitful earth and by the powers of the north. We thank this tree for the bounty and stability she will provide.
At this time, we will bear witness to some special promises to this tree. In the sixth century, Saint Caesarius of Arles wrote that “no one should pay vows to a tree,” but that won’t stop us.
This tree has no ears, but if you have ears, listen:
Tree, we will always love, honor, and respect you.
If we see someone dishonor you, we will gently correct them.
If we find litter around you, we will pick it up.
When we pass by you, we will pause for a moment to admire your beauty.
And we will strive to live lightly on the Earth,
So that you will have clean air and pure water to nourish you.
And speaking of Water —
(Each celebrant pour a cup of water at base of tree.)
May this tree be blessed by the sacred waters of Bayou St. John, the rain from above and the water table below, and by the powers of the west. We thank this tree for the wisdom she will provide.
To forget one’s ancestors is to be a tree without a root. So, in the spirit of remembrance we honor our family present and past. We pay tribute to the importance of family in the broadest and deepest and truest sense, and we celebrate our kinship with this our distant cousin.
We honor not only our immediate ancestors who have passed on, but all those who have come before us, for untold and uncounted generations, beyond memory and beyond history.
Indeed, scientists now speculate that all life on Earth may be descended from a single one-celled organism that lived 3½ billion years ago.
We are all kinfolk. Humans, animals, plants, and every living thing.
(Ring bell multiple times through following section.)
The ringing of the bell is in memory of all who came before. They are no longer with us, but we learn of them and remember them. Although they can no longer be seen, they, like the bell, are heard in our thoughts and in our hearts.
By understanding our origins, we accomplish our destiny.
It is our hope that future generations will see all humanity as their family.
It is our hope that future generations will see all the flora and fauna of Earth as their family, to celebrate, venerate, honor and protect.
Truly, without those who have come before, we would not be here now.
We remember and love you. We honor you; we pass on the light of your life and your love to new generations.
We now call upon the element of Fire —
May this tree be kept safe from lightning. May this tree be blessed by the energy of the sun and by the powers of the south. We thank this tree for the shade she will provide on hot summer days.
As stated in A Manifesto for Earth, “we are born from Earth and sustained by it throughout our lives…” Let us “pause daily to consider with a sense of wonder the enveloping matrix from which we came and to which, at the end, we all return. Because we are issue of the Earth, the harmonies of its lands, seas, skies and its countless beautiful organisms carry rich meanings barely understood.”
We affirm “a trusting attachment to the Ecosphere, an aesthetic empathy with surrounding Nature, a feeling of awe for the miracle of the Living Earth and its mysterious harmonies.” This is our heritage. Our goal is nothing less than the “restoration of Earth’s diversity and beauty, with our prodigal species once again a cooperative, responsible, ethical member.”
We now call upon the element of Air —
(Celebrants blow bubbles around the tree.)
May this tree be blessed by the powers of the east and the air; we thank and honor her for the clear, pure air she will provide.
Trees breath out oxygen, which we breath in. We breath out carbon dioxide, which trees breath in. Truly, we were made for each other.
In the words of the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, “Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”
A new study by the U.S. Forest Service indicates that the presence of trees is associated with human health. When trees are removed from urban areas, mortality rates go up. Without trees, we do not thrive.
So we are surely acting in our best mutual interest to recognize this young tree today, and to celebrate our happiness that she has been planted here on the banks of Bayou St. John.
We welcome you, tree, and we wish you a healthy long life. May the rich blessings of Earth be yours. May gentle thoughts and loving deeds surround you always. May the laughter of children and the joyful rhythms of the Bayou Boogaloo reverberate harmoniously through your trunk.
I conclude this ceremony by summarizing the thought which has been our theme today. Let us all be aware that our lives are interrelated. I am hopeful that this ceremony has strengthened the affection and friendship we all have for each other, and acknowledged our relationships with the larger natural world.
Through this blessing, we broaden our family circle, remember our shared heritage, recall those who gave us life, and renew our common bond in the Earth family. Let us take the kindred spirit we feel in our hearts at this moment into all of our tomorrows, so that we are richer in spirit for this tree’s presence.
Please welcome this tenacious and exquisite tree to our lives and into our shared future.
And now, let us offer up a toast to this tree. A toast! Long may she live!
And then Big Chief David Montana led us in singing “Indian Red” — bringing the ceremony to a climactic close.