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Archive for December, 2018

Trees and Sadness

Today I walked a trail I’ve been doing for approximately 20 years. At the bottom of the hill is a ‘pod’ of 7 Maples that I call the 7 Sisters (they once said I was the 8th). I have written about these trees previously, if you’d like to read go here. As I got to the top of the hill, I was shocked to find large machinery and 100s of trees laying on the ground. To some this may look like normal modern life. To me, it felt like a newly created gravesite. Prior to taking this walk, my heart was heavy. There was no seemingly obvious reason, simply sadness prevailed. As I saw the disruption of this tree community, the reason became clear. Trees have a social network. If you’d like to read more about that, here’s a link to a NY Times article entitled Trees Have Social Networks. While there is no doubt the networks can be rebuilt, humans rarely take it into consideration when cutting them down. This lack of understanding shows a lot about modern life, for we separate ourselves from the very things that gift us with the oxygen we need to live.

While I try to stay positive about life, there is a lot of heartbreak in the world. For me a lot of it stems from how artificial the modern way of being is. It completely unsettles me at a deep soul level. I can go about my business, but there is always this unrest. I will end today’s writing with an essay I wrote in 2015 about the same subject.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as the trees I have visited most every day for the last 18 years were being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees have witnessed my tears, heard me sing, soothed my fears and given me a sense of belonging that the human world has not. They are my friends. I use the wood products these friends will be made in to; so who am I to be against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence; it is the cycle of life. Additionally, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? With contemplation, I find it to be the lack of reverence for life and the community these trees live amongst. Trees have been proven to communicate and help each other grow through an underground network of fungi. Not having words or tears does not equal an absence of compassion or community.

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Later, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer who were wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or sighted the porcupines that move slowly among these trees—what are they doing? And the Barred Owls I’ve run into regularly, how have they been affected? This forest is personal for me, as I know it intimately. Yet, the tears that roll down my cheeks are not just for these specific trees and animals, but equally for the condition of our culture. We live in an artificial and disposable society that believes itself to be real and important. Money for instance is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life force. In America, we seem to groom kids for winning more so than good character. In this situation with the trees, the falsity is that we need to “manage” the forest for it to thrive. This is only potentially true, because of the damage humans have done over the last two hundred years interfering with the natural growth cycle of trees. No matter what, life will go on—for the forest, for the animals that call it home, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues? Will we be mindful of the others, humans and non-humans, we share our home with? Will we recognize that the tree’s life does not depend on us. Instead, we depend on the trees, as they produce the oxygen that allows us breath. Thank the good lord they are willing to share. How are we reciprocating?

Thich Nhat Hahn suggests; “We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realize that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.”
So, my question turns inward as well—will we have reverence for our own personal nature?

Another favorite quote was spoken by Howard Thurman; “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

One of the great tragedies of our time is how hard it is to hear our genuine voice. The “strings” come from everywhere—the greater whole, advertising, our families or that one person we most love. Their ‘sound’ is often loud, perhaps rational and appears real. Meanwhile, our true guide is quiet, humble and when heard sounds too much like ourselves to be taken seriously. To hear it takes silence and subtle listening, as well as a belief in our deep self. None of which are strengths of our busy, noisy, outward-focused society. Additionally, I sense that because our culture lacks a function of unconditional belonging, there is a fear that going inward to meet and know our own self, will further separate us from the world—from others. My senses also tell me that the opposite is actually true. To go inward and revere our own nature will ultimately show us our connection far deeper than blindly following society, someone else or an ideology. When we are true to our genuine voice, we have no desire to attach strings from either end—the controlling or the following. Such an appetite is the result of weakness and insecurity. It is worth noting that a poverty of strings does not mean pure solo flight, rather that we have self-responsibility within the whole.

This essay may seem hard on our society, let that be no reflection on the beautiful people within it. Culture is a structure in which people live, not the people themselves. However, it is up to us as individuals to create the change we want to see within it. We have reached a turning point. I feel it, my guess is you have too. While, we may differ in what we want, it seems most of us sense a need for transformation. I personally and whole-heartedly want to see a world that is genuine, true, and reverent for what is wild and alive. I want to see love for our inner and outer environment and to know that we belong. I want mindfulness and questioning to bring us to what is real. Mostly, I want humans to feel the connection that exists between the earth and all that live upon her; those with two legs, four legs, wings, and roots. To do all that starts with loving oneself. Not love based on personal achievements, but for the divine fact that we have been given the extraordinary gift of life. Let us choose wisely how we use that gift.

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