CHARLIE TOLEDO INTERVIEW
Date: JANUARY 18, 2005
PLACE: Napa, CA – Charlie’s house
We sat at the kitchen table at Charlie’s house and I handed her an extensive list of questions. Charlie went over the interview questions and initially felt they were too long and complicated and indicated a superior attitude on my part. She took a strong and challenging stance with me in the beginning, as a teacher might with a student, but this softened as we progressed.
I know Charlie through our work together with the Women’s Intercultural Network, at one time she was the Board President. I have worked with WIN on numerous occasions as a project coordinator and events manager.
You say “my name is Linda”, How should I address you? Hmmm, I don’t think you would say that, “how should I address you”. You might want to have each interpreter you’re talking to screen the questions.
Yeah. And again this is just a guideline of things I think are interesting. And I understand that some of these may not work.
Yeah, I think you would just come in and say my name is Linda...
One of the things you have to remember is that plant world is telepathic. So that means pictures, not words.
So the one thing right off is that these questions have way too many words. And what you want is for them to be put into pictures. Most people don’t understand telepathy, I don’t know what they think it is but its simple, its pictorial and not words.
A lot of these questions are too complex, if I just put that screen on it and you can go through and see how they are rather than going through and changing all the words. From my perspective - you talk to 10 people you’ll get 10 different views. And some people are going to say well this is the only way it is and I just think oh well whatever.
I agree that there is more than one way.
For example if we took #4 - “we humans identify various categories and spectrums of our being in emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and psychological ways, and personality traits. - Are there similar categories with trees that can be understood in a similar way?” It’s too complicated. So you could say “Are there categories of trees that can be understood.”
And like #7 - “Would you please describe your relationship with the earth and the other trees and plants and rocks and water?” So you could say “describe the earth, other plants, trees, water” -
Or for #6 you could just say “Single tree - Are you a separate Identity?”. Once you know one thing in the natural world, you get to know one tree then you’re able to just slip into the consciousness of tree. Because it is more like the consciousness of “Tree”.
The idea of ego is more human. And like you said in the animal world - but just in some animals its like that. Like wolves or something - some animals are hierarchical and some of them are not hierarchical they’re just defending their territory.
But trees do the same thing. They live in family groups and fight for territory but its more chemical its - within the intent and purpose of “Trees”. You see what I mean, which actually people are more like that than they care to admit, people do the same thing…
But that would be my recommendation is to way simplify these questions. Even if you were going into another culture as an anthropologist you wouldn’t come in asking questions like this unless you were talking with someone else who had like a PhD or something.
And there’s a whole thing with telepathy, part of it is just establishing a relationship. You think here’s you, you’ve been here all your life, (Charlie draws a stick figure of a person representing me facing a tree) you’ve been around trees you’re whole life and you’re just coming to the thought that oh maybe trees are living. So for you to come up to one tree and expect to talk back and forth, it doesn’t happen like that.
The tree has always been there the tree has always been aware of the two legged people, always. And is aware of how it is now. See you’re communicating in this singular flat dimension. When you look at the life of the world and you think of it more like that (she draws a picture of a round world with concentric circles around it and lines going all through to indicate a web of ley lines) and there are all these web lines of communication through multiple dimensions. Air, water, earth. Its one blood its one life.
It’s one consciousness, it’s one spirit.
Yes, and the way the energy goes through it is through the air, through the water. And see what your doing is trying to come up to the tree and just start talking to it. And if that’s what you’ve been doing it hasn’t been working has it?
So, all you’re doing is trying to do the same thing that you’ve done and it doesn’t work and have then asked me do it. And that’s absurd. So I think how you would go rather than the questions, you might have really simple questions like…:
My intention is to do this project, you understand what I’m trying to do here yes?
OK how would you suggest we begin? Say to the people that you’re working with -before you do this.
I think this is good because if you hadn’t done this I couldn’t understand what you’re trying to do, how you’re trying to structure it. However you’re going at it with your mind. Your going “I Know and you don’t know” “I’m Linda and how may I address you ‘.
I mean it’s not like that, it’s not that sort of thing. You’re coming to the tree and wanting to talk back and forth to the tree. And probably what you want to do a little more is look at this - air, water earth.
(she shows me the diagram of concentric rings weaving in the ley lines)
The water is the rain the rivers the sea. We’re not just talking water. The fire is the sun and the earth of life and the rock people, all of that; the air, all of the molecules. So what you have here then is the molecular so you’re already communicating with the tree every human does all the time. The air breathes in carbon dioxide it takes it through the cycles the earth and the sun and it gives back oxygen.
There’s already that exchange that’s going on. Then you think of the water and the rivers and the underground water and the sun and all the ways that exchanges are going on. Then the fire in all the places the sun your heart the earth so think about all the ways this happens. But then you come and you’re like this:
(draws face to face with a tree and asking wordy questions.)
I understand and believe what you’re saying. But then how do I get to this
(pointing at concentric rings) from this (pointing at face to face person to tree).
Well that’s what you’re going to figure out that’s why I’m telling you to think about this. I’ve already done this for you. I’m not going to go and talk to a tree for you like I would a person. I would teach you how to understand Tree. But you’re already in communication with the tree but you’re just not aware of it so what I would help you to do is bring your awareness to how you already communicate with trees every minute of your life.
I don’t trust my translation of it.
But think of it like I just showed you - how am I water with the tree, how am I earth with the tree, how am I fire with the tree? And I already showed you here do you want me to explain it again and maybe you just listen? Because you’re getting a little defended and your brain is jumping in front of you so if you just relax and think OK.
And that’s why I thought we could go out to a tree but then it’s OK because I think it’s easier just to draw the pictures then you realize…Then ideally what I would do is show you is how to talk to a tree then you’d start working on it which might take a while.
I would suggest … You’re coming to the tree standing, do you see how I drew that picture?
(she draws the picture again of person facing tree asking questions and asks how I would do it differently this)
And you’re thinking I‘m bringing my friend Charlie and she’s going to talk to you for me and I’m saying nope, it’s not going to work like that. OK so what’s wrong with this picture, how would you change it? If you’re coming to talk to the tree like that and bring my friend and we’re going to ask it these complex questions in a language that the tree doesn’t care about?
I envisioned that we would sit with a tree that you have a relationship with and I would convey my intent to the tree. I can do this silently, I can do it with words, and then I have questions to pose but I really just want the tree to say whatever it wants to tell me. I’m interested in what the trees want us to know for the greater good of the natural world. And I want this to be a vehicle that will be understandable to the general population.
So how would you draw that picture different than I drew it? How would you draw it from what you just described. Because I want you to look back over this when your not defended and just meditate on it.
(I draw me sitting in front of the tree)
And wait for an energetic connection. I often feel an energetic connection and get a sense of either contraction or expansion, I get feelings and sensations about it but I don’t trust my interpretation because I know from experience that my interpretation can be wrong.
Like you did a psychic reading?
No, in social settings, this is more with how I interpret interpersonal connections. In checking them out with friends I learn how on or off the mark I can be…
But I live across the street from a park and visit with the trees there. Sometimes I feel an energetic connection and sometimes I don’t. There’s one tree I feel that has a chip on its shoulder. And then there’s another tree I feel has great compassion. And I have no idea if these interpretations are correct. It could be my presence interacting with the tree, the tree responding to me. I don’t know. So at this point I’m not going to take my interpretation and bring it to a larger audience.
OK, so instead of this again, here’s the tree, get yourself in a quiet meditative space and you approach the tree asking permission and then just put your back to the tree. And then you just sit there.
So is that how you normally do it?
Yes. I’m thinking of one thing you say, I have relationship to “a tree” but it’s really relationship to “Tree”.
OK, that’s a good clarification.
Right and that’s what I can see in your questions. If you were asking me - at first I thought you were addressing the questions to me and then I realized you were addressing them to the tree. That’s when I thought the questions were too complex.
I think the questions are OK, but then I would just go through with my recommendation, for the work you’re doing with me. Other people may have a different thought, but I think when you’re going to people this is a good starting place because then you’re saying OK this is what I’m thinking.
So to the different people you’ve identified you want to work with you might say, “You give them a clear description of what you want to do and then say,
“How do you think we might begin? How would you suggest we begin? And they’ll say well what do you want to do? Well if I understood how to do this I wouldn’t be coming to you. So I’m hoping that you can help me figure out the format. “
Because what I was trying to show you is that every 2 legged person is already in communication with the trees with our breath. What we breathe out they breathe in what they breathe out we breathe in. The air is our biggest connection.
So what I’m doing is talking to you so when you start to write about it that’s how you would say that. I’m answering your question - put this in your consciousness. So, OK, here on earth all things are connected like that.
You, on behalf of western urban people, can start to think of that to put that filter into your thinking. So you might want to start doing this yourself - go to Golden Gate Park (San Francisco) away from the street and sit and breathe. And become conscious that what I’m breathing out the tree is breathing in.
And even with cars, you know people think the cars are so bad but what the car is putting out the tree is breathing in. The thing is sometimes there aren’t enough trees where there are cars. Problems are created when they don’t leave enough trees to soak up the CO2. They put more roads in take out all the trees but don’t put back any trees.
OK if you’re really going to do this work I would interpret for you for 1 or 2 hours I would do some stuff and then mostly it would be to encourage you to go and do it and then just check out what you’re getting with me. Or if you get to the point where you think, “oh yeah OK - Now if we re-work the questions…”
Do trees have families - of course they do. Dominance, order- which they do again but you can know that through biology.
I guess my question is - is it on another level than just a biological level? Is it on a conscious level like humans?
Yeah, trees move and fight.
They really fight?
Yeah - they kill each other. You think of a eucalyptus - an invasive species - they kill through their roots and their seeds and the dropped leaves. Like an oak tree. You look at an acorn and it has this little pointed head. There’s actually acid, poison in its head and it pokes it into the grounds. But say they’re other things growing around it, that acorn will poison things that aren’t oak. You look at oak trees all in a group and the reason is because they killed off all the other trees. And they claimed that territory.
And if other trees try to come in the first thing the oaks do is poison the soil. And eucalyptus do that, they are the easiest ones to see. But they do it through their root system - it chokes out other species. And sometime just through their leaves - they have pokey leaves.
On a spirit level is this happening with awareness and intent other than just a biological level? Is an oak tree aware it is doing this? Does it sense another tree in its sphere and has the intent to wipe it out?
Not intent in the same way a person does. But it’s in the factor that you would factor in to all of these things (pointing to drawing of rings and ley lines)
You need to factor in time.
When you look to the rock people or mountain or water or rivers… when you think of the rivers flow to the sea, but then the sea is always encroaching on the river, and then the sea is always struggling with the earth. The sea is always taking back more of the earth, the rivers always reclaiming the shore. The water is always trying to grow.
Think of indigenous people, Native American people. When Europeans came to North America they thought they were discovering a wilderness. And all the books you read they say Columbus discovered America. Lewis and Clark discovered you know blah blah blah.
Well what they discovered was already populated by more than 2 million people whom they chose to disregard. Those people were living kind of in harmony with the trees. They were harvesting the trees and through burns and harvesting they were assisting the trees so the trees were healthier and happier. You can put species together like in a garden and people do it all the time.
But even if you look from the freeway there are redwood trees. Redwood trees grow in family groups - literally. And then when the old ones die they become food and redwoods are the easiest ones in which to see that. You can see redwoods grow in family groups. Mostly western people don’t let them grow in families anymore they isolate them by cutting many of them down and using them.
So the questions you’re asking about is something that is really controlled. There are hardly any places left on earth, I don’t even think in the jungles, where a place is not disturbed.
So see this question here - “Is it correct for me to think that, like humans, there are different stages of maturity and wisdom that you can gain as you grow older?”
That’s a relatively simple question, so what I’m saying is to just make them all simpler.
Is it true? Would a sapling have the same wisdom?
Well it’s kind of weird because the time dimension you’re putting it into - the acorn through its DNA has everything and once you tap in to, you know. I think maybe the difference is being a big and mature tree the human can talk to it more or something. It does seem like age makes a difference if were talking about trees.
Is it aware of its birth and death?
Do they experience pain in any way that we can relate to it?
Yes. …. I guess I thought you would have fewer questions.
When I look at them I see that they’re all good questions, I would just simplify the language.
Yeah see, “Can other humans learn how to understand the language of nature”?
Yeah, see that’s really simple, especially your questions at the end. There are no stupid question. I’m just addressing the language you put them in.
Do you object to the tone?
I don’t find it objectionable, I find it like “me human, you tree”, there’s that tone to it. (which to me she implies I do sound objectionable?) So if you just go back and imagine if you were coming like this -(points to the drawing - not standing face to face) which you usually say, ‘who you are and why you’re there’ - then say “I want to understand more about trees”. OK I want to share this information…
I know you think this sounds defensive but I just need to impress upon you that I do not in any way hold the opinion oh its me and then you tree. I do not feel that way at all.
Well some part of you does because you put it into all your questions. So if you just think oh so that’s the way its coming across so how would I shift it? And then probably on behalf of your speaking to that western mind, you know you were taught dominion over all the plants and animals of all the earth - whatever the bible says - you know its coming from that thing - then you would come up with
(says with affectation and attitude) “ I come with peace, ho”
It’s like well why are you here why don’t you go home? Its just kind of like OK
(she mentions some poems by Alice Walker) Have you read Alice Walker? She did a thing where she was out in the woods - it was poem she wrote and I think what people think when they come and talk to a tree is that the tree is going to be all swooning for the person to come.
No, I don’t think that.
Which trees do that sometimes. So say you go out to Golden Gate Park since you’re in San Francisco and you go out and just breathe with the tree. And you might just sit on a bench you don’t have to get real showy about it like (attitude) “I’m communing with a tree”. Because …she tells story of visiting a friend who wanted her to see her garden and Charlie said she noticed it but the woman didn’t seem to think so because Charlie didn’t make a big fuss or seem to really look around closely.
20 years ago I was speaking at a high school and outside the window, a skylight, a tree was moving its branches and waving and when I said something they thought I was weird that the tree was just blowing in the wind. But I said no, it’s really saying hi, it’s happy to be acknowledged. And they said that tree isn’t alive it can’t talk. I said yes it can - I didn’t know how to get it to them.
So I said if the tree would be dead after you cut it down then it means it’s alive before you cut it down. And they were all like, Duh…And that was the most they could hear - they couldn’t hear anything else because they had the basic premise that the tree was just not part of their world.
So I explain about the air and oxygen… Then I speak with a little kid and ask how they would commune with the tree and they go and would be quiet by the tree….
So that’s how you would start with the tree - come and breathe with your back to the tree. And then wait until you can really feel the life force of the tree. That’s the first thing is to feel that in your body then you begin to get it. I often say the best meditation teacher you’ll ever have is a tree. Once you connect with the tree ask it to take your grounding cord down with it…But then the essence of meditation is your breath.
So you breathe in and out with the tree and get that circle of energy going with your breath. You do that for a couple hours a day for a couple weeks. Because I think people think oh I’m going to talk to nature I’ll just go out and start chatting away…and its like no, you have to take the time to make the connection. For most people it would take years.
When I realized I had a close connection to one tree then it suddenly and spontaneously expanded into all trees; to tree consciousness which is different.
Those aren’t different levels within the tree, those are different levels within us. Through the earth, air and water all trees are Tree. Look at it 3 dimensionally - the roots go all the way down and touch fire and rock and surface and air and universe.
When a 2 legged dies they go back to the earth and become tree. And it’s all connected. And then say the earth goes off its axis and we leave the solar system or something then all of us together would stop being here and we’d go someplace else.
Are there energy fields that you’re including in this too?
Yes. Those are the ley lines.
Are there others? I mean the ley lines are the specific energy fields that - like the veins of…
They’re like acupuncture points on the body you know?
Does it permeate to the core of the earth?
Right. Think of it as a complete web - to the sun to the whole star nations. You’re just thinking “me - tree”. Then you picture the sun and the whole universe.
And then the Egyptian ones - NUT the woman and the stars and then that’s the whole universe. And those are points on her body - then we’re just one little part of one little sun and there’s the blackness that holds the stars and that’s the Grandmother.
That’s just one course in this dimension. There are worlds within worlds…
That’s Egyptian tradition and then Taranag…? is Mayan. So our universe goes both ways it gets real little and also real big like they portrayed in MEN IN BLACK.
I grew up with that understanding. That the earth was our mother and the sun was our father and that’s our window to all creation.
(she goes on to mention the films MEN IN BLACK being pretty good at representing multiple universes…the cats collar etc)
What is the tradition you grew up with? I don’t know what tribe you’re with.
I’m a descendent of the Towa Tribe native to New Mexico.
I was raised as a small child to know the sun was a window to God - even though I was raised in the Catholic church - our culture was like that other I mentioned.
If you look at all religions they all have the same connections to god.
You know we forget, but that is fire - (points to light switch on wall)
The gas heater, that’s fire. I may have to turn a thermostat but that’s fire. I can turn that switch and its fire. Some people think “ I don’t live with fire, - you use fire everyday. The battery is stored fire and when it runs out of fire you get it recharged, reconnected.
So what the western people do is they pretend that all that stuff isn’t that way. A car is fire - the engine runs on gas. The things you have to realize about fire is that it’s a life force that has to be excited and it has to be fed. Those 2 things - you stop feeding it and it goes away.
I’m just processing the way that you see - to look at the switch and relate it to fire and I’m just taking that all in.
Right - exactly. I know that, that’s why you need to think about this more. And see like now you’re not defensive. At first you were trying to justify…And now were just talking. You’ve given me this and now its like “what do you think, how do you suggest we begin?”
That’s how I think you should start that. But then I think I’ts good that you come with this paper because it gives us a place to start talking. Because you’ve showed me, well this is what I’m thinking, and now I’m giving you feedback.
This is a reflection of part of what I’m thinking and also what I think a publisher might want. I’m trying to satisfy two worlds.
I think you might want to run this content by a publisher or if you’re just doing it …., for your own personal research thinking that you might parlay it into a different kind of a project that you could get money for. But really when you called and I got your email I just thought, ‘Oh Linda wants to understand how she fits into the natural world.’
It’s both. It’s a personal mission and it’s a project that I intend to publish somewhere, to offer to the general population.
Right. And so you go and rethink it, asking how am I going to do this. And I’m assuming you’ve identified 5-10 people. Am I the only person you’ve identified?
So you go to all those people somewhat openly and just do this preliminary research then start to think hmm, how am I going to begin this. I think also that this is a good outline but not necessarily where you would start. I think its good to start with me now and say what do you think about these questions and then be really open about it. And explain now that you’re not defensive and were getting kind of embarrassed and then you realized OK were just talking about this.
And then I think yeah, that’s really different so then you think about that and that’s why I’m saying the same thing with the tree- its not as profound because there’s not a tree sitting in the room or anything.
Alice Walker one time said about trees – ‘usually people think it’s real poetic to talk to tree but usually it’s a pain in the butt.’ I remember my sister said that when she realized I was talking to trees -which I don’t know at what point that started happening and I became aware of my dialogs.
Yeah - I was wanting to know that.
I don’t know I was thinking about that this morning and I didn’t
know. I think I’ve always been that way as a child I always knew the tree were living and I was always very respectful.
I would climb in the tree and I’d get stuck in the tree and everyone would be running around playing and I would just sit there for 4 hours. But then it got to be that I could feel something was happening with me and the tree. The wind would blow through the tree and I would just want to go look at the tree and I was doing that when I was really young. We didn’t have TV and stuff so we would always be outside just hanging around a tree or something.
Where did you grow up?
In New Mexico. I grew up urban - my family moved to Albequerque.
In 1958 we moved to So. California where there weren’t a lot of trees but we had a lawn and my mother used to make us pull weeds. And I remember one time I was pulling and ran across something different, it seemed to me. So I pulled it out and replanted it and it was a peach tree.
It took a really long time and I would kind of protect it. But I remember being 11 or 12 and the tree was being like, hmm well move me, and so I moved it. But it didn’t give fruit for a long time. So after about 7 -8 years it did give fruit, which is probably about right to go from a seed to a fruit bearing tree.
And my parents always said that’s Charlie’s tree - she knew it was a tree, so that was part of the family lore. That was in So. California.
And at one point in my adulthood I was saying to my sister “oh yeah I can hear the trees”, and she said “oh that must be neat”. And I said no, its sad because the trees are mostly crying.
And then I was thinking about that more this morning - I was hearing the tractors. There was this thicket of trees there but now they’ve dug all these mature trees out and they’re cutting up the earth to put in all these houses.
And so then what’s happening is there’s all this crying and moaning and stuff and so part of me has to just shut that down or else I could not operate. You know the sound of chain saws and people standing in the back yard saying, ‘Oh we’re going to take that tree and that tree and put in a driveway.’ The trees know that and they…
How do they deal with that?
Sometimes they just start weeping, it’s always a little different. I don’t always tune into it because it’s always a little too sad. It’s like watching a little kid you know.
I haven’t farmed much but it’s like when they go to take the pigs they say I’ll take that one and the pig will start screaming. The pig hears and understands the language and understands that one is going to be dead and starts crying and cries until its dead. Cows are the same way, and chickens. Dogs and cats, domestic animals that live with us - they understand English.
Or whatever language you’re talking.
Carlos (her cat) understands….they live with us and try to help take care of us but most people don’t hear them. And the reason most people don’t hear them - that one factor here and that’s why I really wanted to outline this - is that it Takes Time.
Especially with rocks. Rocks talk real slow and move real slow, it’s like we’re in another dimension than them.
And trees see that too, that we run all over the place and don’t know who we are. But the tree can get everything it needs by staying in one place. And that’s why the tree is the best meditation teacher you can ever have because it keeps you still; we run around a whole lot more than we need to.
I’m interested in the communication process. How the trees and the rocks and the earth and the water and the sun communicate. There is a conscious communication?
In pictures yes, telepathy. And part of it is that you have to slow down. People say, ‘Oh why don’t you send me a message and I say well I send messages all the time but nobody retrieves them.’
You can be telepathic but there has to be senders and receivers. A medicine person I used to work with would say to these people - “well I could send you a message through a feather but I don’t think you would get it”.
There are pictures being put out all the time but nobody is stopping to receive them.
Speaking of time – I don’t want to keep you longer than we agreed…
Yes. From my perspective, I think this discussion was good and you can go think about some things in a different way. And I wouldn’t have met with you if I didn’t think it was a good idea – if I didn’t think, ‘oh yeah, that’s something you could do.’
Good, thank you Charlie.
You might go back and see that I answered a lot of these questions and given the discussion we had I think it would be interesting for you to look at the relationship. Everything we’re speaking of is about these things and that everything is communicating like that all the time.
I need to understand it better though. I know everything is communicating through biology and chemistry but I want to understand their intent and the scope of their awareness.
Well if you think of everything you realize as Native people we say tree people and rock people. So then you think well there are all these people around. And then you decide who you’re going to talk to. Well you never made the attempt.
It’s just that you western people haven’t taken the time to mingle with these sources. That’s why you don’t hear them because you haven’t taken the time to talk with them. I don’t want to use the word talk but - commune.
This isn’t a new attempt for me. And I had kind of similar experience with trees like you as a kid but then it lay dormant.
Well you stopped doing it. You see that’s what I’m trying to put the responsibility back on you - that you stopped receiving. You stopped taking the time to do that.
And then you think that you have all these receivers in your system to get information from whatever and you just stopped doing it. We can’t do everything - you know so I’m not criticizing you.
It’s like you could practice the piano and then stop practicing- or any number of things like that. It’s a matter of what you spend your time doing. And then as an adult you think well I used to like doing that and so you begin to come back to it. And think of it like that because I think you’re kind of diminishing yourself by saying well I did but I don’t and I’m not sure…For my part I can encourage you to practice more.
I mean I would show up. I’m not going to bail and say I’m not going to do this project with you anymore. I’m thinking how much time will this take? I would still meet with you another time and go and sit with you and a tree. I’m thinking maybe one or two more times. And then let you go from there - talk to other people, see what they have to say. And even as you talk with others you’d continue your own explanation.
Yes, I will evolve along the way.
Thanks for your time Charlie.
We spent a little over an hour of recorded interview time before going to a restaurant in Napa.
After lunch, we came back to her yard and for just a few minutes went and stood by a pine tree. Charlie said the tree welcomes me and says I come in a humble manner and indicates a positive attitude toward me and what I’m doing.
She just stood with her back to the tree and I was facing her and the tree. She then broke off a small piece of branch of the pine tree and said the tree was offering it to me. She said I could dry it and use it as incense.
I thanked her for everything and left.