Ian Siddons Heginworth’s Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life (Spirit’s Rest Books 2009) explores the natural cycles of each month in relation to the Celtic, Christian, Norse and Greek mythological traditions of trees. It connects the human heart to woodland and cites therapeutic experience stemming from this historical outlook and association. This development in drama therapy, part of a growing awareness of the therapeutic benefits of woodland, is well worth reading.
It offers a general guide to the forgotten connections between human emotions and woodland. It points to the possible therapeutic and healing qualities of extended contact with the natural cycles of woodland and develops an eco-psychology.
The emphasis on mythology as opposed to more practical experience of orientation, senses and communication perhaps overshadows the diverse and untapped potential for learning from trees and woodland life. Similarly the Book of Revelation’s comment that ‘The leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations’ is to be found in folk and Romany customs, legends, poems and songs. Whilst there are some practical and useful exercises, such as the making of mobiles, bridges, and lying down looking upwards as a technique for centering and grounding, I wanted more of the potential of woodland interaction to emerge to complement and supplement the mythological input. One thinks of the number of instances when people sit beneath a tree in order to solve problems, find peace or inspiration as a kind of base line of common sense association to realize that there is something tangible underlying Heginworth’s approach. A wood, like a city, carries within it old stories, history, botany, openings, wild and counter places and has a psychogeography that can be engaged. A working wood as opposed to one that is left to its own devices and growth is similarly quite distinct and would presumably have different therapeutic potential.