I had an amusing experience when I was in college. I was at a party. It was smoky, loud, and I knew hardly anyone. I was just thinking of leaving when I saw a guy I knew slightly. We waved and smiled. Then he looked around and grimaced. I shrugged. He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head toward the door. I nodded, and we left.
I have always been so at home with words that it amused me to think of having a conversation without them. But body language is an important part of our communication, and can be even more honest than our words.
Of course, animals have their own languages -- with and without sound -- and wouldn't I love to be able to translate! Now it is becoming clear that even plants communicate.
The March 2018 issue of Smithsonian magazine has a fascinating article about tree communication. Some of the latest studies at well-respected universities show that trees are connected to each other through underground fungus ("mycorrhizal") networks. They share water and nutrients and send signals to warn other trees of insect attacks, drought and disease. The receiving trees change their behavior to protect themselves as much as possible.
The network communications include hormones, chemical and electrical signals. Trees also communicate through the air with pheromones and scents.
"Mother" trees, with their deep roots, draw up water and share with younger trees that have shallower roots. They send nutrients to neighboring trees, especially when they detect distress signals.
The magazine extensively quotes a German forester, Peter Wohlleben, who is a kind of "tree whisperer." I ordered his book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, from Amazon, and it just arrived. I can't wait to read it.
Of course not all scientists agree with what they see as anthropomorphism. Some say it goes too far to ascribe consciousness to trees, and say that everything can be explained in terms of natural selection. Perhaps. But we humans have always been very reluctant to admit that other inhabitants of the planet deserve the respect that we insist on for ourselves.
I've always loved trees and I'd rather err on the side of respect and protection.