I am just back from a walk through the woods up and down my driveway bringing back today’s mail. My dogs and I do this daily. I say they take me for a walk and call it driveway aerobics. Almost at winter solstice it is late afternoon and the sun has just set. It is particularly beautiful. The late fall sky is a dusky lavender. The gray tree bones reach their bushy fingers up into the sky. They have let loose a multicolored leaves to form a thick quilt to keep Grandmother Earth warm against the cold winter soon to come.
My heart leaps with joy drinking in the brisk clear air and taking in all of the shapes and sizes of my tree friends. The Hollies now decked with abundant red berries and Mountain Laurel hold on to their green along with the tall tufts of Loblolly Pine. Research has shown that the bigger and thicker the forest the more pleasure and happiness is gained from a walk, but if the trees are too dense people feel a sense of foreboding and fear. Here is certainly proof of it.
I often seek the solace of the forest. This last full moon the woods were filled with bright magical light so bright there were no visible stars and no light needed to follow the path. Wrapped in a blanket I sat for a long time feeling the cool earth underneath holding me. The soft silky white light filtered through bare tree branches was so peacefully comforting. The energy from the joining of Earth and Moon danced off the forest floor. Everything felt so alive.
Roger S. Ulrich has done some very interesting research showing that scenes of nature have “increased positive feelings of affection, playfulness, friendliness and elation” while scenes of cities increased feelings of “sadness, anger and aggression.” Apparently nature increases our levels of serotonin, which when available in the brain results in a good happy mood.
Ulrich continued his research to show several other very interesting reasons why great gifts are given when we engaged with our environment. Doing activities in a garden setting lowered the levels of cortisol in older adults. Cortisol is a hormone that is released into the body when we are feeling stressed and can be destructive to the body if high levels are present over time.
Researchers at Kansas State University found that plants and particularly ones that are flowering helped people recover from stressful videos more quickly. I have often suggested to people who work in cubicles or offices that don’t look out onto some natural scene to have a pretty plant in their office or scenes from their favorite places in nature. Fountains with running water are also very peaceful and can help calm a stressful work environment.
“A research group from Taiwan reported that rural farm scenes are associated with higher alpha-wave activity, which has been associated with creativity. Forest scenes and natural water scenes promote alpha-wave activity and decrease heart rate.”
On a nice day if clients are willing we might sit outside on the back deck looking out into the woods and watching the very active bird feeders. Sometimes we might even go for a walk and talk. People are also free to come early for appointments or stay later to walk. I am glad that my office is attached to my home because it gives me more flexibility. I am free to create with the natural environment, planting gardens and creating trails in the woods as well as having plants in my office. People often comment on how comfortable, peaceful and calm they feel here.
The free-range chickens are a big hit. Sometimes clients come early just to watch the chickens. If the clients are all right with it I also have two Border Collies who can be present during sessions. The older one is the greeter. When she’s finished saying hello she is off to snooze for the rest of the session while the younger one is particularly attentive when someone is having a difficult time emotionally. People are quite comforted by all of these parts of the environment. I like it too because I offer an example of a more self-sufficient quiet lifestyle with an organic garden and honeybees too. Maybe people will be inspired. I strongly believe that I have to practice what I preach.
There’s a funny story about a wild turkey that came walking up the path in front of my office just as I was finishing up a session with a young woman. She said to me, “Do you keep turkeys?” Surprised I said, “No.” She was looking out the French doors at the front of my office and saw a big tom turkey. We were amazed and cautiously went to show her mom who was in the waiting room. He looked in at us but just kept walking. How odd!
Later I learned that the client I had seen just before the young woman had gone to the library at the other end of the house to read. She said that the turkey had come up to the glass door and seemed as if he wanted to come in. She was from Los Angeles and had very little knowledge of wildlife or experience in the woods. Just for kicks she opened the door for him and asked, “Would you like to come in?” He put one foot, pulled it back several times and then turned to go. She decided that he was asking her to follow him so amazingly she did.
He took her along the trail past the parking area and into the woods. She followed him for a while until he veered off the path down into the ravine. It was just beginning to get dark. Since she a city girl who was very unfamiliar with the woods she decided to come back. She was very excited about her brave adventure. That turned out to be a huge boost of confidence as well as a good story to tell all of her friends.
Psychologists have begun to explore using natural setting for helping troubled youth and working on improving family dynamics. Outdoor or wilderness therapy programs have been successful because of a “combination of being removed from daily life and its distractions; doing exercises to build trust and teamwork; taking solo trips where family members have a chance to ponder their individual issues and roles; and participating in group activities that end with a reward, like a beautiful mountain view.”
Other studies have found that this type of youth program has resulted in significantly improved mood and behavior that has held over time even after the end of the program. These youths have been seen to be more motivated, improved their life skills and interpersonal relationships. They consistently have more “hope, self-confidence and emotional control.” 
Science is showing us what we instinctively know. Walks in the woods help us feel calmer, less depressed, and less hostile and improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise in an outdoor environment “increases vigor and a feeling of liveliness.” Studies report, “that lower blood pressure, pulse rates and levels of cortisol accompany time spent amid trees and flowers”
There was also another very interesting study that was done in a hospital with patients who were recovering after gall bladder surgery. The recovery floor in this hospital had two hallways. On one side the rooms looked out onto a brick wall and the other side patients looked out into a wooded area. Those patients who had the rooms looking out into the woods consistently recovered more quickly, had fewer complaints and were able to manage their pain with aspirin instead of narcotic drugs. Their response was markedly different than those looking at bricks.
These studies validate our experience that time spent in out of doors in natural environments or even by looking at pictures or videos or by having live plants indoors vastly impact our health and sense of well being. They have even been able to show through MRI technology that viewing nature the opioid receptors in the brain that produce dopamine. Dopamine brings us a sense of pleasure, which means we are more heart centered and happier.
Head for the green spaces nearest you as often as you can, bring flowering plants to work or plan a vacation visiting one of the many exquisitely beautiful state or national parks. Feel better and live longer!
 Selhub, E.M., Logan, A.C. Nature Really does make us Happy. (December 2015/January 2016) Mother Earth News. P.58-63. Ogden Press.
 Selhub, et. al, P.60
 Selhub, et al. P.60
 DeAngelis, T. Therapy gone Wild. Monitor on Psychology. September 2013. American Psychological Association. P. 48-52
 DeAngelis, P.52
 Selhub, et. al P. 60
This Credo was written by Abigail Starks, who is 16, in response to an assignment in which they were to describe their beliefs at the present time. She was participating in a group called Quest at her Unitarian Universalist Church. She and the others in the group then each presented their credos to the congregation.
Ideas are what make up my beliefs, my fluid beliefs. They are vague, as if hidden in a field, engulfed in cloud. These words are an interpretation of this cloud and its ever moving vapors. I am the liquid making up these vapors. My beliefs are fluid, liquid as a flame; and as inextinguishable as the water… I believe that fresh air heals. That positive energy really does have the power, and leads to positive output.
I believe in Creator. I believe in Mother Nature. The Earth will care for us as much as we care for her. I believe that water cannot be owned. I believe that land should not be owned. Water and land are what give us our life, and we should not have the audacity to take its life. I believe in sunshine warming you to the core. I believe in removing toxic things from your life: be that people, or possession. I believe in the power of rushing waves and burning fire, able to recharge our souls, or warm our hearts, or cool our anger.
Earth provides for me: THIS being, this vessel. Those beings holding the light of their energy. Who taught to some of us that the light is inside of us? Why did some of us not learn to see it? And why does it sometimes flicker? The universe can only tell me and it is a coded message hidden in something beyond the parameters of my mind. Their minds..
This being, This vessel. Those beings holding the light of their energy. Who told to some of us that the earth is our carrier? Who told to some of use that the water of the stream and the sap of the tree was to be the breast we should suckle upon, and the mother to care for in her illnesses. Even if she caught them taking care of us, especially then. Why did some of us not learn to be grateful for this? Why did some of us not learn to drink sparingly of her milk and savor it, for one day it could stop flowing. If you remove the gratitude, she still provides; but in pain. As a mother longs for the love and gratitude of her creation. Creation needs ours. Our love and gratitude; Why does it sometimes flicker?
This being in this vessel. Celebrate the light it holds. Lounge in its warm essence. Stoke its heart fires…
I hope my credo stoked your heart fires.
Abigail Starks, 16 years old
A number of years ago I was facilitating a retreat in the woods surrounding my home in Southern Maryland. It was evening and I was helping people see and feel the energy and light that comes from the Earth at night as well as the energy and light that surrounds us and connects us. When we had finished a series of experiences, I asked that we stand up in order to feel our connection with each other heart to heart around the circle through our palms that were extended out to our sides to each other but not touching. We were having a lot of fun feeling the strength of our connection around the circle and through the center of the circle.
Then I asked that we turn around and face the woods with our backs to each other. “Extend your heart light to a tree that is near you” were the instructions as each woman focused her attention and loving heart on a tree. We stood in silence for a while softening our focus to let in more light.
All of a sudden I got a flash of bright blue green light from the hickory tree I had been focusing on. Wow! That was amazing. It felt like a pure signal of acknowledgement. I extended the palms of my hands toward this tree with thanks and gratitude. My feet felt well rooted in the earth. I felt taller as if the energy through the crown of my head was being lifted to the sky. How tree like I felt: strong, supple and beautiful, a conduit of the loving energy between Sky and Earth. To this day I go back to that hickory tree, visit and pay my respects with love.
When we had all had space and time enough, we turned back around and shared our experiences. One woman, Karen had an interesting lesson. After she had asked permission to connect with her tree, she was astounded to see fireworks coming out of the tree. These sparks of energy ceased the moment her mind shifted away from her present experience back to an earlier time in the group when she became judgmental with something that someone had said. Her connection with the tree stopped the minute she lost her focus and shifted to something negative. Here is her experienced described in her own words.
July 23, 2006
“Last night was absolutely amazing! When we were directed to look into the center of the circle where the crystal was located I couldn’t see anything at first. I began looking at my hands then back to the circle at where I thought the crystal was located. The next think I saw was a swirling white mist similar to the pattern when you blow out a candle. I thought it was due to either my glasses being dirty or my bifocals. I saw the same thing in the center, so I took off my glasses. I listened to Carol when she suggested that we should relax our eyes and realized it wasn’t my glasses.
When we were directed to face out from the circle and ask to exchange energy with something in nature I was blown away. I asked this exchange from the tree in front of me. A misty wispy tunnel full of flecks of light came at me fast and powerfully.
One of the participants described her feelings, religious viewpoints, etc. I became judgmental and negative in my thinking. I could no longer see the energy! I turned around and faced out asking for the exchange once again from the tree and Mother Earth. It wasn’t as intense, but when I turned back around I could see the energy flow again.
When we reflected on our ancestors of the past, my spiritual Indian guide would appear. Watching Carol I could see the energy around her. It was flowing out of her fingertips. At first it reminded me of very long white oriental fingernails, but then it strengthened and extended further. I began relaxing my eyes and could see my energy connection from the fingertips of one of my hands intertwining with the other. The connection got stronger as the session continued.
Later when I was in the center, unconditional and nonjudgmental love when straight into my heart. The path was similar to the Milky Way except for the sense of movement. When I looked down at myself and the ground, bright flecks of light were everywhere. I turned back to the circle and everyone was covered with them. Some had more than others. My hands glowed like the night glow sticks. At first it was like one solid hand, then the fingers began to separate and an aura the glow emanated out and around each individual finger.
I decided to ask Mother Earth if I could exchange energy and similar to the tree flecks came soaring up from the ground.”
Karen’s description is an example of the powerful exchange that is possible when we open our hearts to both send and receive unconditional love from the Earth, trees and each other.
I have noticed over the years that when I am stressed or tired or emotional and I take the time to go for a walk in the woods I come back calm and at peace. There was one time a number of years ago when I had just come back from the doctor’s with a diagnosis of some kind of terrible cancer. I had had several small bumps come up on my body. He had removed them and sent them off to the pathology lab. Now he was telling me “These are not a primary site, there are other tumors in your body that need to be located and cut out.”
Needless to say I was terrified and angry. I went for a long walk in the woods ranting and raving at God. “I lead a life that cancer patients are told they should lead. I eat well. I take good care of my body, my mind and my spirit. Now I am given this. It is not right. It is not fair, etc, etc.” Whine, whine, I was on a roll. The odd thing was by the time I came back from my walk among the trees, I was fine: at peace and even joyful.
As it turned out the journey was not terrible but very educational. I did not have that brand of cancer but a cancer that was much more manageable. As a matter of fact several acupuncturists and I were able to make the bumps go away with moxa treatment. I was immensely grateful. It became a good life lesson.
The gift of energy and life that the trees give us is incredibly important. I go into deep mourning when I see woods dug up and burned for the sake of some new development. When new the new houses are built occasionally a few small new trees are planted to replace the thousands of big ones that were cut down.
Do we not realize that while it is nice to plant trees it will be a long, long time before those young trees if ever will produce the same amount of oxygen, create the same habitat for birds and other wildlife or provide the shade and energy grounded into the Earth? I think about the vast primeval forests that have been cut down around the equator in the name of faster coffee bean production, banana and cotton plantations and mahogany harvest all for our voracious consumer appetites. The jungle at the equator has been like the lungs for our beautiful planet. Who will breathe for us now?
Dorothy Maclean in her book, To Honor the Earth, communicates to us the words from the Cedar of Lebanon Deva.
“Many lives come and go, still our power goes up to the sky and down to the earth. Our serene strength stabilizes and makes upright whatever comes to us, for we are living matter, fashioned from the elements, and we are kin to all life. You and I are blood brothers and sisters, made from the same substance, fulfilling our individual destinies on this planet. I contain you in my towering strength, and you contain me in your towering aspiration. We are tree and human—and we are much more. We are representatives of divinity, and we never end through endless ages.
“Humans are despoiling our power on Earth, interfering with our destiny, but in the process you are learning of your own destiny. We hope that one day you may proudly take it on and enrich the Earth as never before. You can indeed do so with your enlightened love.” P. 64
Mantak Chia in his article in www.bodysoulspirit.com/advanced-science-on-how-to-really-befriend-a-tree speaks of trees being “the largest and most spiritually evolved advanced plants on earth. They are in a constant state of meditation and subtle energy is their natural language.” He says that big trees and those that are growing by water are the most powerful. Here is a list of trees that he offers with their healing qualities.
1. Pine trees nourish the blood, strengthen the nervous systems and contribute to long lives.
2. Cypress and cedar trees reduce heat and nourish Yin (Female) energy.
3. Willow trees reduce high blood pressure and strengthen the urinary tract and bladder.
4. Elm trees calm the mind and strengthen the stomach.
5. Maples trees help reduce pain.
6. Locust trees help balance the emotions of the heart.
7. Cinnamon trees can clear coldness from the heart and abdomen.
8. Banyan trees clear the heart.
9. Fir trees help clear bruises, reduce swelling and heal broken bones faster.
10. Hawthorn trees help aid digestion, strengthen the intestines and lower blood pressure.
11. Birches trees help detoxify the body.
12. Plum trees nourish the spleen stomach and pancreas and calm the mind.
13. Fig trees clear excess heat from the body, increase saliva, nourish the spleen and help stop diarrhea.
14. Gingko trees help strengthen the bladder and alleviate urinary problems in women.
Looking at this list I remember a time when I had gone on retreat with my sister to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Our cabins faced a beautiful inlet on the Pacific coast. On my way back from my prayers of gratitude at the beach I managed to jump off of a large stump landing on only one leg. My knee could not support the pressure of the jump and went careening out to one side. Totally panicked I pulled my shawl tightly around me, lay down on the Earth, asking her to hold me and help calm my panic.
After a while when the waves of panic subsided I was able to stand up on the other leg and signal for help. I was carried into our cabin. With the help of Reiki and the open loving hearts of the other women there I was able to sit in circle for the evening ceremony. My dreams of hiking the Hoh rainforest and the Olympic ridge were gone but with the help of the cold round ocean worn stones and cedar branches I was able to walk through the airport carrying my luggage at the end of a week.
The stones and the cedar helped to reduce the heat from the injury and the cedar encouraged me to simply be quietly present that week rather than off and running. Many thanks to the stones, the cedar and the loving care especially from my sister.
A friend of ours, Sharlyn Hidalgo, has written a wonderful book called the Healing Power of Trees: Spiritual Journeys through the Celtic Tree Calendar. Month by month she provides insight and meditations connected with each tree of the month. “Each sacred tree of the dryads” (who are the keepers of the original keepers of the teachings from the Creator) represents a cosmic expression of the laws of the universe and the natural world. P. 1
I have heard many a story from my clients about their favorite childhood tree. I remember one of my most favorite places to be was up in the maple tree in our backyard. I could sit up there hiding out, rocking gently in the wind away from family life with a good view of the world as I knew it. I played for hours in the woods in our neighborhood making forts behind the great upturned roots of fallen trees or taking up the challenge to see who could climb the highest in the big old pine. Even though I tried, I didn’t have the courage to climb as far up to the top as some.
My husband and I built a log cabin from scratch, carefully selecting the straightest trees, cutting them down, dragging them carefully out of the woods by hand or with the help of a friend with a horse who could pull harder than we could. We stripped the bark, stacked them to dry, notched them with an axe and built up the walls just like we did with Lincoln logs as children.
It was the warmest house in Northern Vermont with no electricity but a wonderful wood stove to keep us cozy even on 40 below zero nights. I am grateful for trees and all that they give to us: paper, wood for building, for burning, places to climb for a new view, lots of great habitat for wild friends, oxygen and beauty, beauty, beauty. They show us their great gray bones in the winter and provide a magnificent green canopy in the summer.
To my mind they provide the greatest cathedrals on Earth. Have you ever walked in a redwood grove? What a magnificent sacred space! There is a quiet, peaceful reverence among those magnificent rooted beings stretching, stretching upward into the heavens. The redwoods are not deeply rooted trees and rely on the intertwining their roots to provide mutual support. My youngest son, bless his heart, put his life on the line to try and stop the cutting down of redwood groves in Northern California.
A woman I know went to her favorite tree to grieve when her father died. She placed her hands on the rough bark feeling the company and support of this magnificent green being. Leaning into it she experienced the leaves falling one by one, letting go, helping her to feel the deep love she felt for her father and the letting go of all of the emotions she was feeling.
The strength of the tree became her inner strength. The tree’s letting go became her letting go. The deep roots grounded her as her emotions passed through her into the Earth. She thought of the way in which the leaves on the ground would gradually decompose and make the soil richer, which would support the health of the tree. She reflected on how her father’s life had been such a support for her and made her life richer, one tree passing its wisdom on to the next.
“Come closer. Rest in our strength. Become aware of the smaller notes that we play—the flutter of leaves, the shining glints of color, the sunshiny softness of spring. All are connected with the birds, the insects, the elements. A large tree is a place of beauty, a family, a home, a country to explore. A refuge to many, it stands proud, giving out to all, reaching up to the sky and deep into the earth, enduring. The tall tree stands as a symbol of a particular perfection of God. Let it stand and you will come closer to God,” the Copper Beech Deva speaks as translated by Dorothy Maclean. P. 75
Trees are very apt models for us from a spiritual perspective. The Tree of Life is an important symbol found in many cultures. In Cherokee teaching it represents our growth as a human spirit to higher and higher dimensions of conscious awareness. The cross is a representation of the Tree of Life. Some might say that Jesus died on the Tree of Life to show us a way to ascend in consciousness, to become one with God. To develop spiritually many traditions teach us that we have to begin by being well grounded by connecting our energy deep within the Earth, the Mother, an aspect of the divine feminine. It is from the womb space of the mother our bodies are formed and it is through this connection our soul is given a place to call home.
The tree that emerges from the seed begins its life by first establishing roots. From a strong nourishing connection with the Earth the trunk begins to develop. Slowly the roots extend deeper and deeper as the trunk pushes up out of the ground and develops its first leaves. More leaves develop feeding the growing tree by metabolizing the light from the Sun. Nourished from above and below the young tree is off to a great start.
One way to explore our human spiritual development is to begin by ensuring that our energy is well grounded in the Earth. The Earth offers a sense of place, safety, security and stability. When this is well established the spiritual energy in our bodies can begin to rise taking us on a journey through the major energy centers along the spine.
We are drawn upward by the light and the natural inclination of this spiritual energy to move up our spines. The Kundalini energy is one name for this energy as it travels up the Sun and Moon channels along either side of the Central Pillar carrying with it an increased balancing of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine energies. It is only when this energy through heart-centered practice comes to the crown do we come into an awareness of ourselves as Light and One with God/Goddess All that Is. The duality of three-dimensional living is balanced by a sense of the totality of the Whole.
The tree is a wonderful metaphor for this process. Well rooted the sap rises drawn up to the crown of the tree where thousands of leaves like little solar panels metabolize the light. Trees and humans are conduits of the loving energy between Heavenly Light and the fertile luminous darkness of the Earth.
(Tree photographs are by Jane Marcy, www.janemarcy.com)
Good morning Grandfather Sun, Umpeywi. How good to see your bright shining face and share the warmth of your light. I am so grateful for this new day in all of its glory. I love the way you illuminate the treetops with your sweet morning lemon colored light gracefully, gradually bringing color into the world. Your light is reflected in the warmth of my heart.
Taku Skan Skan your deep infinite blue invites my spirit to soar. Your blue beingness like a protective egg embraces this beautiful place we are given to call home. I appreciate your calling me into the mystery of the infinite.
Thank you for you Grandmother Earth. My body is of your body. You hold me lovingly nourishing my soul. I love walking on your body feeling the solidity underneath my feet. I caress you as I walk through this life, gently loving you, honoring you, respecting you just as I have learned to do for myself.
And you sacred Iyan, the sacred bones of the Earth, your crystalline structure is reflected in the crystalline structure of my bones through which our energies flow.
My body is of your body, my bones are liken to your bones, my spirit is reflected in your spirit, my heart is powerful and bright and warm like yours. We are one and the same.
Sweet Tatey your gentle touch brushes against my cheek refreshing me. Hanwi, while the Sun lights our day you hold the lantern tall at night illuminating the forest floor with your gentle light and vibrant energy.
Nature my heart sings to you. I so appreciate the beauty you have created. It is my heart’s desire to offer my beauty back to you today in the words I speak, the actions I take and the emotions that I express.
I “own” sixty-two acres of beautiful woodland in Southern Maryland. On a very cold end of March day I went out to the top of one of the many ravines on the property to sit and look out across the streambed below onto the rise on the other side. The maples were tinged with red as buds swell with their catkins that will flower, develop their winged seeds and eventually leaves. The forest floor mottled brown with last year’s leaves was so visible any movement of deer or turkey could be readily seen. Gray and brown tree bones were laid bare so that the complex interlacing of branches created a chaotic pattern against the sky. Later when the trees are fully leafed the green canopy covers it all creating a very different sense of space: no horizon but closeness and an appreciation of the immensity of great green beings.
I have never felt like I “owned” this land. We seemed to have a contract to fulfill together. I have held ceremonies here, brought people overnight for retreats, taken people outside to sit for therapy sessions and opened trails so that people could share the beauty of Nature’s creation in this sacred and holy spot. Nature and I are partners. I do my best to keep the four wheelers from romping through the forest just after a good rain, tearing up the forest floor in their total disregard for the destruction they leave in their wake. Or keeping this place safe from hunters who would randomly kill the deer and turkey I wanted to keep this one little place safe for them. I do honor those who would hunt to feed their families just not here on this land.
When I was a young girl, I was very active in Girl Scouts. My favorite activity was summer camp were we lived in the woods, developed good swimming skills in cold lakes, crafted, canoed and most fun of all hiked on trails up and down the wooded hills and ravines next to babbling brooks. One day when I was hiking listening to the phenomenally beautiful fluted song of the Wood Thrush, I said to myself, “I would love to have a piece of property some day and hear this beautiful singing.” Now every April when the Wood Thrush begin their songs at the break of day I roll out of bed and into the woods. What a holy moment. I think of them as musical instruments that bring heaven to earth.
This Mother Earth, Gaia is an amazing living being that needs to be treasured, have our respect and stewardship. She is an immensely complex Being that fosters many living species from the tiniest microorganism to the greatest Blue Whales.
“The cooperative dynamics evident in the evolution of the Earth’s biosphere have led James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis to hypothesize that the planet’s climate, oceans, and atmospheric composition are actually regulated by living organism working together in a coordinated fashion to maintain the conditions necessary for life. In the most widely accepted version of the theory, this coordination takes place through complex cybernetic feedback loops such as those in… systems theory. This life-sustaining system encompasses the Earth’s entire biosphere—that is, its living organisms plus the water, air, and soil with which life interacts. James Lovelock goes so far as to assert that this system actually functions as a single living entity.” P. 262 Hathaway and Boff
The narrow range of surface temperature required to sustain life forms on our planet has been maintained over the last four billion years in several crucial ways. Even though the sun’s temperature has grown 30 to 50 percent warmer during that time, initial levels of CO2 formed a protective greenhouse blanket and have been gradually removed by the action of living organisms keeping the surface temperature regulated. Our rainforests have played another role, by evaporating vast quantities of water and forming reflective clouds that “act as the Earth’s air conditioning system.” The oxygen levels also have to be maintained within a narrow band. If they become too high “spontaneous combustion would result, destroying much of the biosphere in a storm of fire and smoke.” The process of photosynthesis produces enough oxygen to support life both in the oceans at first and then only after the ozone layer was built up enough to protect life on land could it develop there as well. The soil of the earth is filled with huge numbers of microorganism that make up a large portion of the biomass on land and extend well below the earth’s surface. P. 264 Hathaway and Boff.
What a delicate dance of balanced dynamic processes that allows life to flourish on this living planet! The unfortunate thing is that especially with the onset of the industrial revolution and our capitalistic economic system that demands more and more consumption we have wreaked havoc with this balance. Rainforests have been destroyed in the name of mahogany, coffee plantations, gold mining, to name just a few. Our ozone layer is being depleted making us more vulnerable to solar flares and radiation, hence the rise in skin cancers and other disastrous consequences. The list goes on and on. We have given little thought to the future but only for what we want in this present moment to satisfy our insatiable hunger for more stuff.
Chief Seattle’s letter written in 1854 eloquently expresses the deep sense of connection to the Earth that the Native American people felt.
“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or see the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air, and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are a part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers….
We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.
As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. The earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.” http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/seattle.htm
This speech among other things makes me realize that although I love this land I have only been here for twenty-two years. This is the longest that I have lived anywhere. I do not have a sense of my father or father’s father being part of this land, walking the forest paths, stopping to observe the flow of water in the stream or feel the wind on their faces.
We are for the most part a very transient culture and as a result we have little connection with the place where we put our feet and house our families. In this day and age the houses grow bigger and the land they sit on grows smaller and smaller. When I was a child I was free to roam the hills and swamps, to play in the fields, climb my favorite tree to sway in the breeze and to plant a garden. Today children are very sheltered. They watch and inordinate amount of television, play video games, hang out on their phones or tablets. There is little attention paid to having a sense of place connected with the earth and sometimes even with other people. This makes outdoor education a very important component of a school curriculum. Parents, who take their kids tent camping or send them to camp or go hiking or make a garden together with them, are giving their children a tremendous gift.
What about stewardship, what does that entail? When I finally was able to sign on the dotted line for the additional 37 acres that I was adding to the original 25, I went for a long walk on those acres talking to the trees. I was celebrating with them that no one was going to come and build the 11 proposed homes. No one was going to come and cut down the trees because for some reason it is more convenient to build from a clean slate moving the dirt around, reshaping the topography to suit some plan that originated on a drafting table than by walking around and looking at the beauty already created.
Why would you cut down huge oaks, sycamores and beech to burn them needlessly and in the new housing development replant new little twigs in their stead? Don’t people understand the value of huge trees as conduits of energy between the sun and the earth feeding the billions of microorganisms that make up the soil and who replenish nutrients? And what about the process of photosynthesis that provides us with the oxygen that we absolutely need for our survival? Cut down a mature tree and we kill thousands of leaves, like little solar panels that metabolize the light to be used to produce oxygen, feed the tree, the earth and help maintain the delicate balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen supporting all of life on this planet.
The Copper Beech Deva invites us, “Come closer. Rest in our strength. Become aware of the smaller notes that we play—the flutter of leaves, the shining glints of color, the sunshiny softness of spring. All are connected with the birds, the insects, the elements. A large tree is a place of beauty, a family, a home, a country to explore. A refuge to many, it stands proud, giving out to all, reaching up to the sky and deep into the earth, enduring. The tall tree stands as a symbol of a particular perfection of God. Let it stand, and you will come closer to God.” P. 75 Maclean.
These trees also create a buffer for the stream beds that run through the property providing water for the animals of the forest, habitat for small fish, eels that come every year from the Sargasso Sea to spawn, frogs, water snakes and countless other forms of life that I cannot see. This water kept clean in part by a healthy forest moves out into the river that then moves out into the Chesapeake Bay. These waters when healthy feed the people with rockfish, oysters, blue crabs and more.
To steward the land is to love the land, to care for it, which to my mind basically means to leave it alone. Nature knows very well how to manage her forests and streams creating habitats for all who come to dwell or walk within this immense beauty. The Landscape Angel implores us, “Unless you become conscious of the divine within yourselves and act from that, you are open to grave limitation. To be in touch with the true nature of life, you must be conscious of our existence. We play such a great part in the formation of your world, but until you recognize us, there is no true cooperation. Recognition forms the bond on which to build.” P. 79 Maclean.