49 year-old Clare Dubois is the courageous, passionate and dedicated founder of TreeSisters. Clare acknowledges that her whole life has been about the healing the feminine in the face of patriarchy. This stems from a very difficult childhood growing up with ‘an unbelievably horrendous misogynistic father.’ Life for Clare has been one of recovery from the hands of the masculine and this has been the inspiration for her to help women to heal.
Clare’s journey to set up TreeSisters is both remarkable and quite terrifying yet also magical and mystical. I hope you will be equally motivated, touched and encouraged by reading her story as I was when interviewing her.
Sue: Welcome, Clare. As we all know we are going through particularly challenging times, so I wanted to begin with when you first realised you had a mission to make a difference in the world?
Clare: I started having nightmares about climate change in my mid 20s. I became very frightened and depressed by what was going on. But there was never a sense of taking any leadership role. I never saw myself out front of anything, because back then I was a profound introvert, incredibly insecure and wounded. I couldn’t cope with people or crowds or much in life really.
Sue: How did this change for you?
Clare: I became involved with theatre performance around 2001. In one performance I played the earth where I got raped. While I was being raped, I was handing out cups of tea. So, I was inside this experience of being the one that gives all but is completely unseen – yet attacked whilst providing, and then driven to the edge of absolute collapse. And, for me it was complete collapse. I screamed my head off.
Sue: That must have been an incredibly powerful experience.
Clare: Yes, it was. I woke up to the reality that you can’t put the pain of the earth into therapy. I had the song ‘Humpty Dumpty can’t put things back together’ again going round and round in my head. I went into shock because in the play they put me back on my throne. At the end of the performance, I was given a little gift to open which was a small blue book with a white cloud on it. The little white clouds had the words, ‘You can change the world.’
All the dreams I’d been having throughout my twenties (I was living in the UK at the time) were telling me that there would be no more clouds, no more rain. So, I became obsessed with clouds. I used to draw them and take photographs of them and I wanted to have cloudscapes all over my house. I knew the climate was changing. This small book, saying you can change the world made me break into a million pieces, and I ended having to go outside because I was roaring with grief.
Sue: I can feel this grief as you talk about it.
Clare: Yes. All the time, I was having this argument in my head where my grief was screaming ‘You’re going to do something. You’ve got to do something.’ But then my insecurity was yelling, ‘You can’t do anything; you’re not good enough.’
Then my grief would say, ‘My world that I love this dying. I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to give my life to this.’ Then my insecurity would tell me, ‘But you’re nothing. Who do you think you are that you could do anything?’ These two voices just got louder and louder. It was as if womankind was screaming, ‘We’ve got to do something,’ and then the patriarchy saying, ‘Who the hell do you think you are, you can’t do anything. You’re the problem.’ I went through an hour of this whole kind of existential emotional argument inside myself. And, I won.
Sue: What do you mean, And I won?
Clare: The planet was more important than any amount of my insecurity or neuroticism. That was the point that I laid down my life for the planet. From that point on, it was just about the search for what I was meant to do.
Sue: Was this the beginning of finding your mission?
Clare: Yes. I met a businesswoman involved in coaching and joined up with her because I knew I wanted to coach people back to their essential selves. This led me to going to different conferences in the States. Each conference felt like this weird succession, taking me step by step along my journey.
Sue: What do you mean by that?
Clare: Well, I would hear somebody talk about what was going on in the rainforest, and I would start bawling my eyes out. I’d hear somebody talk about fundraising, and I’d start bawling my eyes out. And then I’d hear somebody else talk about indigenous peoples and I start bawling my eyes out again. It was like my body was talking to me through my tears. I started realising that I was supposed to be raising money for trees, but I had no idea in what form.
I ended up going to India in 2006, because I was still desperately trying to sort out my head from my father, but I wasn’t breaking out of victim consciousness. So I went to Sadhguru’s ashram in Tamil Nadu, and discovered he had grown thousands and thousands of saplings to give to the people who’d lost family members in the 2004 tsunami. The rehabilitation of these villages through this tree planting scheme happened as soon as people had somewhere to put their grief. This tree planting project was called Project Greenhouse, and every time someone talked about it, I started crying again. At the same time, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, here it is. This is IT.’
I became the UK coordinator for Project Greenhouse, believing that raising funds for trees was what I was supposed to be doing. But actually, what I really wanted to do was understand the social strategy, because Project Greenhouse in India wanted the world to raise funds for trees. So, I spent three years going back and forth trying to understand this social strategy.
Sue: It feels as if there was a kind of force with you.
Clare: You could say that. On the day I was going to a communications meeting in London to urge them to start a reforestation revolution, I swerved on ice and crashed the car into a tree – or a tree stopped me from going over the edge. It is one of those great metaphors from life: reforestation can stop humanity going over an edge!
The moment I hit the tree, there was a blinding flash of white light inside the car, and I was given two words: The Experiment. Then a voice started talking to me. It told me that humanity is running out of time. It’s not over yet but it’s going to take all of us rising to the challenge to get through what’s coming. The single greatest threat facing humanity is fear of failure, but we can get over the fear of failure by calling everything we do ‘an experiment,’ because you can’t fail an experiment – you can only learn from it.
Sue: What an incredibly powerful message.
Clare: I said, ‘What experiment?’ And, the voice answered, ‘You have to reforest the tropics.’ That’s the moment when my life flashed before my eyes; I saw all these stepping-stones that led to this moment in the car. It was like, ‘Oh crap! They want me to do this.’
Then I was shown into the future. I was shown the formation of a charity. I was shown myself going out front. I saw myself as a public figure and on stage. Bear in mind, I was at this point a roaring introvert, it was like, ‘You’ve have got to be absolutely kidding!’
I remember I started crying in the car, because I was so shocked. I mean there’s having a crash and whiplash and all the rest of it, but it was the shock of being given this job. The voice continued, ‘You have ten years to do this and you have to mobilise the women. The women are the missing piece. The women are the womb carriers, and the Earth is the womb. Women share a common history with the earth because what’s been done to one has been done to the other. Feminine consciousness is the consciousness of all living systems. Your project is called TreeSisters. It’s a crowdfunding site and you are going to direct funds from everybody into tropical trees.
So, none of this is my idea.
Sue: Did you get any sense of who was communicating with you?
Clare: No, no, just a voice and it was a male voice – and it was as loud as if somebody was sitting literally in the car next to me.
Sue: So, you have no sense of where it might have come from?
Clare: I’ve no idea who it was. I think I was too shocked but talking about it makes me want to cry.
Sue: I am not surprised. It sounds as if you were touched by something divine.
Clare…or maybe its insanity or stupidity. I have no idea but either way I knew that feminine consciousness has to be reinstated or it’s over. I went home and told my partner that I had crashed the car. He asked me if I was okay and why I was crying. I told him, ‘I’ve just been given a job, but I don’t want it and I’ve got to do it within ten years.’ He went silent for a minute and then said, ‘Well somebody’s got to do it!’
And, that was it. For nine months, I sat with it. But my version of this gestation was horrendous depression. I’d been given this version of Clare, who I had no relationship with at all, as this front person – this brave person, this woman who knew how to set up a charity and work with a team, do accounting, legals and social media. I didn’t even work on a computer back then and I didn’t want to be stuck on my laptop learning all these things that I didn’t know. I didn’t want any of it.
And, I was terrified of women. I was terrified of what would happen if I did something that celebrated women. Would I be more attacked by men or more attacked by women who were afraid of being attacked by men? But that was before I found Alexandra Pope.
Sue: I love how Alex’s work helps women to access their power through the cycle of the menarche.
Clare: Yes. I went to one of her workshops to learn more about who I was as a woman. Frankly I had been an incredibly heavy bleeder, so my experience of bleeding was about it being a mess.
Of course, I walked into this whole cosmology around the menstrual cycle, and I remember leaving in a state of shock, thinking, ‘Oh my god! There’s actually something good about being a woman.’ Then thinking, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe I’ve just thought that.’ I couldn’t believe that I had no concept of there being anything good about being a woman.
Sue: That’s a very profound and, I imagine, extremely painful realisation.
Clare: It started my journey of stepping into the feminine. However, when you get asked to create a global women’s movement, reinstate the feminine principle and to help women remember who and what they are, and when you haven’t got a clue what it means to be a woman and you’re frightened of women, and you’ve got no idea that there’s anything remotely spiritual going on in your own body, or that you’ve got any value, that’s not the ideal starting place. But that’s where I was. So, my next step was to work with Jewels Wingfield to confront my terror of women and try and understand how to be in relationship with them.
Sue: Were you also working with trees at this time?
Clare: I’d tried various different versions of starting a tree initiative with men and women, because I couldn’t understand why I had to work primarily with women. I was too afraid of it. But everything I did started brilliantly only to fall on its face incredibly badly. Finally, it got so bad that I literally said, ‘Okay, I get it. I’m doing something wrong. Tell me what to do.’ That’s when the same voice came back (it only spoke to me on these two occasions) and told me, ’You can do all of that, but you do it with women.’
I asked the voice, ‘So tell me what a treesister is.’ The voice came back, “It’s a woman who makes five choices: to be considerate of life, to be encouraging of her sisters, to be intimate with nature, to be responsible for its upkeep and to be courageous with her gifts.
I realised this created a five-pointed star, so I rushed home and drew the star and asked them to show me where these choices belonged. They placed them on the star and in doing so gave me the soul of TreeSisters; the sacred geometry upon which TreeSisters is founded. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
Sue: This is an incredible story, Clare. How did things open up from there?
Clare: It was a case of sitting down with this five-pointed star map and try to figure it out. I also reached out to a friend who’d been in India with me. She and I got together and started a company. It was another year before we could get the charity started, and we were pretty clueless, wandering around in the dark, making things up as we went along and experimenting every step of the way. Every time I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ I kept reminding myself that this was just an experiment and so I couldn’t fail.
Sue: A few months ago, I joined a zoom meeting you had with indigenous women and how they were experiencing Covid. I felt your passion and rage – and your commitment to support them in any way you could, and I wonder what they have taught you through your work with them.
Clare: It’s still a formative journey. I’d never met an indigenous person until I came to live in the States. All the contact I have had is through TreeSisters. We are working with a tribe in the Amazon and we’re now working with a tribe in Borneo. But so many of these cultures have been profoundly westernised.
When you’re talking about people whose lives have originated through a profound connection with nature, and they haven’t lost it yet, there’s only really native people in the Amazon who are in this category. I met two in London, but we had to use a translator, so I haven’t been able to sit with them and have an actual discourse.
However, when I have had the opportunity to sit with indigenous people, the primary thing I have noticed is how there is a state of being which they inhabit that is not dissociated [from the Earth]. There is no separation. No sense of it being broken. Frankly, we have a broken relationship with our actual world – so broken that we don’t even know it’s broken. So broken we don’t even know what’s possible. Indigenous people are speaking out of a completely different worldview where they are woven into the very fabric of life and completely belong to it.
Sue: It’s so tragic that we’ve lost this connection.
Clare: There was a huge longing after the film Avatar came out. People were depressed because they wanted what they could see – that sense of indivisibility and belonging. That everything is sacred. We’ve been taught nothing is sacred. Anyone can be taken advantage of, and your own body can be trashed. And, the body of the planet is just there to plunder.
But indigenous people live in a state of sacred reciprocity. And they also live in a profound awareness of their own blood lineages, and they live inside their ancestry. So, they’re not severed from their ancestry. They’re not separate from the land and nature, and they belong inside everything. Neuroticism [in western cultures] is rampant for us because we’re fundamentally disconnected. We’ve lost our route. We don’t know who or what we
Sue: As you say, we all deeply yearn for a connection to the planet.
Clare: Yeah, that’s what has created so much misery in this world. We know somewhere deep inside us we’re called to this profound connection with nature, but we don’t know how to do it anymore. Actually, it’s existential hell for a lot of people.
Sue: Last year I met a Canadian indigenous woman who was working with native Indian tribes. She told me that these native people don’t get how we are trying so hard to live more consciously. They have such a different relationship to the earth.
Clare: I have spent time with the Kogi [in Columbia]. They [shamans] spend the first twenty-six years of their life in the dark indicating that they have to communicate with the planet and explore how to communicate with it. They are literally a physiological embodiment of the planet – we all are – but they are actually activating that reality.
We couldn’t really understand each other, and we needed to translate from English into Spanish and then into the Kogi language. This meant an awful lot was getting lost in translation. I’d ask a question that was deeply meaningful for me and they just laughed at me!
Sue: Can you give an example?
Clare: I was trying to talk about the role of women, and how there were so many women in our network that wanted to support them. They did not understand feminine empowerment at all – like that was a complete mystery to them, because, in their culture, women are the Black Earth. Women are the source of all of life and the source of all power. So how could you possibly need to empower a woman? It was completely ridiculous.
When I tried to explain religion, right down to women being recreated out of Adam’s rib, they were on the floor, rolling about, laughing their heads off. It was the most preposterous thing. Why anybody would be duped into believing Eve stories or why a woman would ever allow herself to be perceived as less than, was absolutely beyond them.
Sue: Did they talk to you about what they thought might happen in the future?
Clare: I did try to ask them about the reality of what was happening in our world, and they (and other indigenous people) have basically said that they can’t see the future beyond 2026. But what they see before this is cataclysmic climate change. They wouldn’t answer my questions. I was sort of saying, there are women who want to know whether there is any point having children because nobody’s got any sense that there’s actually going to be a future.
They told me that every time an indigenous language is lost on this planet, species go extinct. And that the human relationship with the planet is way more profound than anything we could ever imagine. A woman’s relationship with the planet is so profound that if women stopped giving birth, there would be no more fertility on this planet. Women are literally the source of fertility. That’s their perception and experience.
Sue: So, fertility of the planet is created through women rather than through the female species of the animal kingdom?
Clare: Yeah. Human women hold the source of fertility on this planet, and if women stopped giving birth, all fertility will stop on the planet. And, it’s essential for women to give their blood to Gaia. That’s basic 101 of what it means to be a woman. Your blood and placenta do not belong to you. It has to be given back because it’s food for Gaia. It’s what she needs in order to sustain herself.
Sue: We are so removed from this understanding.
Clare: Well, I have a tendency to trust the wisdom of a culture that spends the first 26 years of their life only in communion with the mother. And, now they are being trashed and treated like a tourist attraction.
Sue: Knowing what you know, I’m curious about what you want to say to women now.
Clare: This sounds scary, but about four years ago a friend’s 17-year-old son came to her and said, ‘I want to commit suicide, because there’s no future for me. I am going to give you one more chance to give me a reason to live. If you can’t, I’m going to go.’ She told me that out of her mouth came the words, ‘Women are going to learn to do magic again.’ She said she had no idea where these words came from, but it stopped him in his tracks. He apparently said, ‘Oh, oh, of course.’ He’s still with us, God bless him. It reminds me of an ancient Tibetan myth when a time will come where 1000 goddesses will gather and the Divine Feminine will rebirth through their combined energies. That’s when the planet will shift from one of fear to one of love.
It’s starting – women are rising up now. If you believe the science, then yes, we are up shit’s creek, but the science doesn’t account for the power of human consciousness awakened in relationship with nature itself. We are starting to shift out of dissociation into awareness and women are starting to remember who and what we really are. There’s this untold power and that’s why the Kogi say women have to keep birthing babies. Women are the Black Earth. They are the source of fertility on this planet. You can’t empower a woman because she is power.
Sue: This is an incredible hopeful for us all to hear.
Clare: We’ve forgotten because we’ve allowed ourselves to be conditioned and indoctrinated away from what we are by a patriarchal, incredibly sick system. But I believe we can recover.
First, I’ve had a lifetime of illness and struggle to recover from patriarchy but I am recovering. If I can recover and I am the planet, then the planet can recover too. Second, nature is incredibly resilient and we’re starting to realise that we’ve got to give back to her. Third, I don’t know how it’s going to play out but the intelligence of mother, the intelligence of the goddess, the intelligence of the sacred feminine or feminine consciousness is not going to rise at the last minute for a last gasp and then go, ‘Sorry I was late,’ before the whole thing falls over.
I can understand that a lot of people and a lot of youngsters especially are utterly devastated that they are not going to get the life of convenience totally taken for granted by us older ones. But what we have now is one choice and that choice is to wake up and live the most meaningful lives that have been lived for thousands of years as we start to realise how powerful we are in direct relationship with nature – as we start to figure out what it actually means to turn our species around and start living lives of reverence for nature and reverence for each other.
I’m not a mother but my life is given to every child on this planet. I’m trying to create a habitable future, and anybody can join me. Anybody can look at the ecosystem that most touches them and commit the restoration of that ecosystem into their conscious awareness and into their creative dreaming. Asking how your gifts and abilities can be given in service to the restoration of our world is the most breathtakingly beautiful gift you can give. So I don’t grieve as much anymore. I just work and try to find a way through.
Sue: This reminds me of what Buddha said about finding enlightenment, which is chop wood and carry water.
Clare: Yes, just do the work. It’s about looking at what needs to be done and then looking for the next step. And, to remember that you’re not alone. Life is here. The trees are here. The sky is listening. Nature is with you.
Sue: I am also really aware of some very special young people who doing some extraordinary things. They give me hope.
Clare: My version of reality is that these souls are here for a specific reason. Those of us who are trying to help to swing humanity are here for a specific reason. This is a big game – a very big game. In the US at the moment, the stakes are outrageous.
Sue: It has been such a pleasure to talk with you, Clare. Is there anything else you would to add?
Clare: Yes. Everything we have has come out of the earth – even our bodies have come out of the earth. Every home, every city, every car, every plane, every single thing we’ve seen has come out of the earth. And taking it from the earth has contributed to warming the earth. I just want everybody to really take on board what we’ve taken for granted.
If we are warming the earth to that degree then we’ve got to start cooling her – and the fastest way to do that is through fast growing tropical trees. This is why TreeSisters is focused in the tropics. Our planet will turn to desert if we strip the tropical forests because there is no cooling of it and we will run out of rain – we’re already 50% down on precipitation. We can’t let this happen.
Saving of the tropical rainforest and restoring them is a fundamental lifeline for our species and for every other species. So, it’s a really strong request that I have for everybody who reads this article to step in and start giving back as a generous act of normalcy because why wouldn’t we take care of our Mother?
TreeSisters will plant for you in 11 ecosystems around the tropical forest belt and then you’ll know that you’re protecting endangered species, restoring watersheds and transforming lives, lands and social stories, and doing something concrete in the face of climate change. This is my sincere wish and when you GIVE, TreeSisters will welcome you with open arms.