Learning to Talk with Trees (and Eels, Elephants, Eagles, and More)

Day 1 of the Intuitive Inter-species Communication Symposium

Bowie Yin Sum Kung
4 min readMay 9, 2023

I heard about this symposium from my biomimicry class at UCI with Melina Angel last week, after she had assigned us an activity to communicate with another species. I found myself diving into the deep end of a mystical, colourful pool that I never knew existed. Serendipitously, I was just in time to attend this symposium.

Can we ‘talk’ with other beings? (Photo by Mathias Katz on Unsplash)

How might we understand the term ‘intuitive inter-species communication’?

‘IIC presents as a detailed, non-verbal and non-physical form of communication between humans and other animals. Drawing on a diversity of intuitive capacities, IIC includes the mutual exchange of visceral feelings, emotions, mental impressions and thoughts, embodied sensations of touch, smell, taste, sound, as well as visuals in the mind’s eye. While these exchanges can occur while in direct physical proximity to the animal, they can also occur over great distances and without the need for visual, auditory, olfactory, voice or other cues that humans normally associate with direct interactive communication’
‘Speaking’ with other animals through intuitive interspecies communication, M.J. Barrett, Viktoria Hinz, Vanessa Wijngaarden, and Marie Lovrodeach

The first day was filled with wondrous sharing and enriching teachings — like cracking a door open in my mind to reveal a whole other world.

Into a mysterious, beautiful world of inter-species communication. (Photo by Roman Odintsov on Pexels)

Here are some things that called out to me today:

We can all learn to do it because we are nature

We may begin by quieting our mind and inner chatter through breathing and mindfulness. Start with your most natural or strongest way of knowing. To find out, whenever you notice a pigeon, seagull, or thrush, bee, tree, river, or rocks, you could ask yourself, ‘how do I know this?’ Do you know first through sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, or other ways of knowing? Cara Gubbins tells us that we may be one of 5 communicators, or a mixture of these (or another one entirely!):

  • Seer: you know primarily through seeing and sight
  • Listener: you know primarily through sounds
  • Senser: you know primarily through touch
  • Knower: you know primarily through intuition; you just know
  • Feeler: you know primarily through feeling emotion(s)

A two-way street

It’s more than just receiving telepathic or emotional messages. If you make yourself sincerely available to reciprocate in that interaction, you may discover actions that you could take to help that being to thrive. It could be something that’s just uniquely for you or a message that’s being transmitted to you to be translated to the rest of humanity. Estella Kuchta shares a conversation with a magnolia tree.

In some cases, you could even make requests or negotiations, or eco treaties. Saskia von Diest shares her communication with snails on an apple orchard farm to find inter-species mutually beneficial solutions in agriculture.

It’s not about us

Engaging with more-than-human-beings is not an opportunity to ask how animals or the natural world can be of service to humanity. Deb Matlock reminds us that it’s about decentring the human and anthropocentric worldview.

Learning from more-than-human beings

I asked Gail Simmons and Roxanne Martin-Pitchenese (Migisi Sahgaigan First Nations) how we could integrate inter-species communication into our conventional education system.

Roxanne shared that education has to be land-based, with lots of interactions with nature, co-learning with other humans from more-than-human beings, and acknowledging knowledge keepers. Gail shared her experience as an English high school teacher, devising a creative writing activity with her students where she asked them to close their eyes and image their character in their minds, where the character is standing (sidewalk? meadow? beach? mountain?), what the character’s hair feels like, what the character is wearing, etc. Gail shows that even in conventional classrooms, we can teach through imaging, intuiting, and connecting with our inner and outer nature.

So, what do you think, or rather feel? Would you give it a thought to explore this way of knowing?

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Bowie Yin Sum Kung

I write about regenerative practices, climate and social justice, decolonial and alternative economies, economies that heal, and the wonders of nature.