Hap Epsom got to Pine Cone Grotto early that Saturday morning in late May. The past two years had flown by him like Lance Armstrong on a heavy dose of muscle-building dope. His friend Havva had introduced him to the trees after he helped her set up her booth at the Mindful Body Expo in 2007. The way he figured it, meeting Havva and her friends Sonny, Kenya, Reem, and Zaela was like winning the lotto. He sat on the black bench he usually sat on when he wanted time alone with the pine trees. The first thing he did when he got comfortable was to suck in a big gulp of pine tree air and send it through his body. His semi-deep voice made his air-sucking sound loud enough to reach the senses of the three hungry vultures making their first pass over the trees. Hap knew it was just the birds and his 183-pound body in Pinewood at the crack of dawn. So he looked at the healthy-looking seven pines and two oaks that stood in a perfect military stance about ten yards in front of him. He felt an energy within the trees. He read enough about trees to know that “trees” was the name we had given them. They were really a group of roots that had decided to express their consciousness by creating artistic branches bursting with energy. Those branches ruled a world of color, birth, and death within their reality. They not only responded to their nonphysical roots, but they also responded and react to their physical world. Hap looked at the bark of the two oaks in front of him, and he remembered that each mass of twisted roots shared a common goal but the roots didn’t always build roads for insects and homes for other forms of consciousness in the same way. Hap looked at the finically fallen, grayish-brown pine cones lying in a nest of newly fallen needles. The pine cones owed their existence to those branches and clusters of recyclable pine needles. Every pine cone was a one-of-a-kind art form that expressed the physical personality of all the nonphysical roots that created the physical form of what we call trees. Hap’s facial muscles started to move peculiarly. His face looked that way whenever he was thinking of the trees. His wrinkled forehead showed the bodily beating he gave himself running around the world. But sitting on the bench had nothing to do with his wrinkles. As he totally relaxed in a sitting position on his favorite bench, he began an inner dialogue with the trees.
“Grabala, I am aware of your consciousness now. You and the other tree speakers taught me that trees are a distinct kind of energy. You told me that the creative consciousness of trees demonstrates the interconnectedness of everything. An interconnectedness that gives them an underground network of roots and fungus that serves as their alarm, gossip, and protection system. Each pine cone bud has the wisdom of that underground network etched into its being. And it’s in a language only the trees understand.”
Hap stopped his inner conversation and opened his eyes. Grabala, Havva’s energy personality, stood seven trees away from him. Her physical presence was queen-worthy in the tree world. She stood sixty feet tall, and her thick, grayish-black trunk had an almost endless number of branches that covered themselves in clusters of green needles. Each needle cluster on Grabala’s branches danced in the wind, waving a pine-cone-bud
baby. Her bud-cone babies were forging a spot in their family cluster as they shared birth with two or three other baby buds. Grabala’s pine cone family seemed to have royal sap running through their DNA.
Hap didn’t expect an answer from Grabala this time. He was just daydreaming. He wasn’t talking to her yet. He was there to experience the opening of Pine Cone Grotto, a five-acre pine and oak tree forest on the bank of a clear-running stream in Pinewood. Hap felt at home at Pinewood. The forty-acre botanical wonderland in Bellevue, Tennessee, was his second home. He thought about how trees express their physical presence in the world as he drank the last gulp of hazelnut decaf he’d bought at 5:00 a.m. from Norm’s Donut Den.
The left-handed former shoe executive held his right hand over his eyes so he could see each tree swaying in beach-blanket glory as the sun hit them, and the wind drenched them. But he kept a close watch on the vultures as he got up and walked down the wide, river-stone path in front of the trees. Hap started another dialogue:
“Only a few pine cones ever become trees. Grabala said they stay in pine cone form until they are ready to move to the next step of their physical journey. They are electromagnetically absorbed by a tree’s root system, and they find themselves being born first straight up and then hanging upside down on the same branch or a related branch on the same or another tree again.” Hap thought that was the same scenario humans experience living on Earth. Hap felt alive as he told himself about the trees. His five senses were tingling as his invisible inner senses came alive. When he walked in front of those tall pine trees, he felt their energy. He felt like the spark and flame at the same time. He experienced the intangible presence of “no time,” along with a shot of “no-thing,” as D. T. Suzuki, the Japanese professor of Zen Buddhism, liked to say. In other words, Hap uncovered his four-dimensional reality by talking to the trees.
He heard a gentle voice in his mind:
“The vultures feel your presence. All animals have consciousness within them. The present is their point of power. The present is the point of power in all consciousness.”
The familiar inner voice was telling him something about what he was doing and what he was thinking at that moment. But his mind started to wander as the vultures disappeared. Hap’s inner dialogue became a two-person conversation.
“That’s how consciousness works, Hap. You’re in it one minute, and the next minute you’re still in it, but you focus on another part of it, and you are suddenly somewhere else, thinking about something else within the consciousness you are aware of.”
Hap heard himself say consciousness over and over again. That was the word that really changed his life at the expo. Hap chuckled as he answered the voice out loud.
“It sounds funny to think a word is a life-changing experience, but change is something we all do because we’re consciousness, I guess.”
Hap sat back down on one of the black, wrought-iron-and-wood, two-person benches in front of the trees. The gentle voice within him was clearer now.
“When it comes to understanding consciousness, humans are at a chimpanzee level in this age of enlightenment.”
Hap got a whiff of satisfaction from that inner thought as the wind grabbed every physical aspect of the trees and mingled with each tree’s multiple expressions. He thought it was almost like the wind was depositing a nonphysical energy into the leaves, branches, needles, and trunks. Hap took his focus off the trees when he heard a squirrel chirping on a branch a few yards behind him. The squirrel’s chirping triggered memories. For years, he thought his voice of reason was the loudest voice in his head. Then he thought about what got him to Pinewood in the first place. It wasn’t his voice of reason. It was his lack of reason and his willingness to discover who he was that got him there. Hap smiled as he began to mentally describe himself to himself.
“I’m one of those recapaligion kids. Born in the fifties, went to Christian school, and then went to college so I could make my capitalistic fortune. I was a confused, brainwashed workaholic dipped in anxiety and sprinkled with fake self-confidence. My old voice of reason was the voice that told me to worship, squander, cheat, lie, and steal to get what I thought would give me happiness.”
Hap looked up as he stretched his farmer-tanned arms out in front of him. He didn’t see the vultures, so he went back and remembered why he drank a river of light beer before giving the wine industry a shot in the financial arm for ten years.
Hap’s inner conversation didn’t stop.
“Thoughts are a very useful commodity. Portions of your consciousness use thoughts to create drama, fun, emotional episodes, and lottery wins. You could say thoughts are a concentration of other thoughts that become your thoughts when your perception mechanism leans a certain way. Thoughts have different levels of energetic intensity.”
Hap thought about the inner personality that ran through him. He finally understood why he listened to his inner personality more often now. Hap knew that communicating with a nonphysical energy personality is as ancient as most of the ancient stories and symbols we consider as such. His inner personality was at it again.
“Thousands of years ago, Hindu meditation opened a door to nonphysical energy personalities. Even before that, your cavemen communicated with energy personalities. Much of the knowledge in the ancient books comes from the layer of consciousness we inhabit. We want to help bring humanity out of fairytale land.”
Hap was sure of it. There were too many credible feelings to deny it. He got it now. The human spectrum of consciousness is expanding. Every part of that spectrum is finding a way to expand in its personal pool of perceptions. Hap thought that becoming one with the vibe of allowance, appreciation, and abundance in Pine Cone Grotto was his praying method. He quietly continued his dialogue with his inner personality while he waited for the Acorn Dressing Group to arrive.