Many people ask how to develop a deeper relationship with beings beyond the physical dimension – in what is often called the ‘otherworld.’ The first place I would recommend to go for this kind of interaction with the spirit realm is the natural world. Find a place that is special to you. Make it a regular practice to visit there often with the intention of developing a relationship with this place beyond its physical manifestation.
In the beloved chestnut tree of my local peace garden in a park that I walk in daily I found exactly such a place. There she stands, the elegant focal point of a space dedicated to peace on earth. She was there first; the garden of tranquility was designed around her.
Trees have long been associated with the Goddess and it was through this tree in particular that I came to have my own felt experience with this ancient and enduring belief. A groomed, gravel path spirals around the garden in approach to her. It is lined with lavender and rosemary bushes, and seasonal bulb flowers like iris and tulip. I walk to her as a daily meditation.
Through the year I am blessed to be able to watch her change with the seasons; in the winter a crone with no leaves, her stark branches outward reaching speaking of death and emptiness, in the spring blossoming with large unfurling fivefold leaves, in the summer full branches of green fruition offering shade from the bright Pacific sun, gentle nibs of catkins dangling, in the fall shedding her seedpods of chestnut fruit (which I was astounded to observe have openings in the shape of perfect vulvas), before releasing dried brown leaves, which crunch under foot, in preparation for yet another winter.
She is a tree whose trunk is hollow, almost dead except for the daughter tree winding up around out of the ground exactly within her, and twisting among her branches to look like a part of her. Mother and daughter tree stand together holding each other up. In the hollow space within her trunk one can stand. Here, on what remains of the trunk, there are small natural ledges and spaces upon which one can leave offerings. This is what I do, often, carrying flowers and herbs to place within her, to thank her, to honor her.
After a while of carrying out this daily ritual I began to be able to visit the chestnut tree in an imaginal way. In these journeys I found a doorway in her trunk leading to other dimensions. I began to call on her in mediations from other places and discover the places in the otherworld that this doorway leads to. Now I know the chestnut tree is a place I can retreat to no matter where I am on earth. And I do so often.
Most recently a wonderful thing happened at this place I visit everyday. As I approached the chestnut tree one day I saw that there was an art project in process. A local woman commissioned a local artist to create a sculpture of the mother and daughter in the tree.
Here is the image I came upon that is now a part of my daily walk and meditation.
The artist is Takayuki Zoshi.
~Theresa C. Dintino