Ceiba, Tree of Life
By Jen Frey
In January 2017, I had the incredible opportunity of meeting the Ceiba of Vieques. This tree is over 300 years old. Before going, I imagined what the tree has seen and what stories ki* could tell.
And then I saw the Ceiba, standing alone surrounded by a field of grass, majestic and royal begging me to be embraced by ki’s buttresses. Before I even left the van, I knew that I was in the presence of the Divine. I could feel the fibers of my Heart stretching as my Heart was opening wide. It was love at first sight. I received the message, “Give your troubles to me, I will protect you.” I walked around Ceiba entranced, amazed at ki’s form and gentle power.
As I spend my time, running my hands along ki’s buttresses and looking up at the branches, the forms begin to appear. I see Rhinoceros and Alligator and Elephant and Monkey. Ceiba is sharing the stories of the world. I understand why many cultures consider Ceiba, also known as Kapok, as The Tree of Life. The Tainos believed that the souls of the departed reside in the Ceiba and would come out at night. That’s an obvious conclusion, as there are so many spirits to see in the tree. I imagine people gathering around the Ceiba (instead of a television) to listen to the stories held within.
The Mayans believed that you could access the worlds through the Ceiba tree. They would only build towns where a Ceiba grew and if you allow yourself to connect with the tree, it is easy to understand why this was the center of the community, for Ceiba calls forth community. Ki calls you to gather, to listen, to be held, to be safe. Ceiba says, “All are welcome.” As ki holds the stories of the universe, Ceiba is able to remind us of who we truly are.
As I sit in her protection, radiating Love, I think Ceiba may be the Tree to guide us during these times. Particularly, when there is much fear around refugees or “others", when there is so much misunderstanding and animosity, for Ceiba says, “We are all One in the Heart.”
I leave grateful for the lessons and love of Ceiba. For months after, I connect with ki’s energy and remind myself of the peace and open heartedness. Then in September, I watch in horror as hurricane Maria pummels the island of Vieques. I see the dance floor that I danced upon is now washed into the ocean. I see the restaurant I ate at is torn apart, and I see countless Trees uprooted. I wonder about Ceiba, but no news. Finally, I receive a picture and my grief pours forth, there is Ceiba, leafless and with an enormous pile of downed branches. I know it is ki, yet I barely recognize Ceiba for the shapes I marveled at are gone.
For months I mourn the devastation, and I wonder, is there hope? Can we recover? Not just Ceiba, but Vieques, Puerto Rico, the US, humans. And then, I receive my answer. It comes in the form of an email with a picture. There is Ceiba sprouting new leaves. Ki’s shape is different. Ceiba has released stories and is creating new ones for future generations.
Once again, Ceiba is guiding us, reminding that it is time for us to release the stories that no longer fit. The stories of separation and power-over. The stories of “other” and patriarchy. It may not be pretty and it may be painful as we release these; however, we must remember, we will sprout again. Like Ceiba we can choose what stories we want to create for our future generations. I suggest that as we do this, we remember the lessons of Ceiba of living in open-hearted community and especially that “We are one.”
As we start a new year, may we remember to co-create with Nature to dream a world of Love and peace where ALL beings are sacred.
*following a suggestion from Robin Wall-Kimmerer, we are using the pronoun ki to designate a living being who may be male or female or both or neither--but a being, not an "it"
To learn more about Jen you can go to www.brigidsway.com.