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Archive for January, 2019

Trees and All Life

Earlier this year, I was close to many trees as they toppled over, falling to the ground. Some were obviously old and many looked completely healthy. Some fell during storms and others didn’t have obvious outside influence before falling. It was a recurring theme that I couldn’t help but take note of and contemplate. Perhaps it was telling me something. About a month ago, I was at Uncommon Grounds, Saratoga’s best coffee shop, and went blank, fell to the ground and hit my face hard. Having no memory of it, I was told later what happened and it was described as though I fell like a tree. Hmmm….. Was I emulating the trees, or did they try to warn me what was coming? What most interests me about the ‘coincidence’ is the reminder of how symbiotic life is. It’s easy to forget this, since we live separated from the natural world in buildings with temperature controls etc. Meanwhile, the organism called earth, which humans, plants, trees and animals are all parts of, is living as a whole. Where do we get our oxygen but the trees? What holds us to the planet but gravity? What waters our gardens but rain? What helps our bodies create Vitamin D but the Sun? Thich Nhat Hahn says it well; “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.”

Today, I went for a walk on a trail that I’ve been doing for 20 years. It is not one we do every day, so it’d been awhile since I was last on it. At the bottom of this trail is a group of 7 maples that I call the 7 Sisters. They have shared wisdom with me, which you in turn have heard through my written word. Today, after passing the “Sisters” I got to the top of the hill and was shocked to find 100s of trees cut down. Many even blocked the trail. It felt like a newly created gravesite. “Coincidentally,” prior to this walk, my heart was heavy. I had slept until 10am, which is abnormal. While I did so because of exhaustion, it was accompanied by feelings of incredible sadness—as though grieving something unknown. When I saw the disruption of the forest and felt their despondency, part of the reason became clear. Trees have been proven to have social networks, they help each other grow and warn of danger. Like all families after tragedy, the network will rebuild. Yet, that humans rarely take the whole into consideration when cutting trees down shows a lack of understanding or empathy, which says a lot about modern life. While I try to stay positive, there is much heartbreak in the world. For me, much of it stems from how artificial the modern way of being is. It unsettles me at a deep soul level. I can go about my business, but there is always unrest with a tinge disappointment.

For a week or longer (and periodically for years) I have felt the presence of Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull was a Lakota Indian Chief who led his people during years of resistance to the United States government. It was under his leadership that the Sioux tribes united in their struggle to survive on the North American Great Plains. Is his presence with me in spirit or simply an archetype, I know not. What I do know is that I grieve along with the great Chief for the loss of a way of life. The trees falling nearby me earlier in the year, were doing so at the “hands” of nature. Those I came across today fell at the machines of man. That difference is painful for me. Today, the trees were scattered on the ground like the Indians after the Wounded Knee Massacre, which took place a couple weeks after Sitting Bull’s death and exactly 128 years ago on the day I write this.

 You do not need me to tell you that we live in an artificial society. And yet, maybe you do. Perhaps not personally, but as part of the whole. People seem to value that which man has created, over that which was here long before us. We would do well to examine our priorities and see where we take the path of convenience and comfort rather than acting in alignment with our values. Let us not beat ourselves up over it, but do pay attention to our actions. For instance, how much plastic are you using? How much gas do you waste or electricity—anything that runs on fossil fuels? Are you spending time on things you “should” over what you love?

As already mentioned, my heart aches lately. Some reasons have to do with me, most of which are to do with the big picture—such as what the trees represented. Still other facets come from and for the ancestors that walked this continent in times gone by. Perhaps I am able to help all by allowing it to pass through and release. Even if not, it feels like what I need to do for now. I hesitated to write about this, not wanting to hear how to ‘fix’ this state of being. It is for me to move through, allow, merge and transmute when it has had its time. Until then, I pray—for the trees, the humans and all of LIFE.

To close, here is an excerpt from Chief Seattle’s letter to the government; “This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

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