Friday, November 25, 2016

The Wish

Too often I hear a whisper
deep within,
I wish.

I stop before the hush of words
finds release upon a willing tongue.

What can I wish for when the rain,
just beginning, finds my nose
among all others?

How can I long for more
when the cedar bough sky
dances above
and the air,
a quiet song of love,
embraces my heart and the earth,
beneath my feet,
offers rest from weary travels?

Are not the waters that sweep the shores enough nor
the peace of a quiet tree before the sun arises?

What other place but where I stand, tempers my soul
with the grace of the squirrel
who knows no longing?

I wish, I wish
to be …

Only here.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Fallen

Hiking along a favourite trail, I came across some trees—mostly fir but also cedar—stately beings who had fallen in last year's wind storm. These trees were two maybe three hundred years old. I tried to count the rings on their ragged stumps, it was dizzying.

Why had these trees fallen? They had seemed well protected in this grove of old growth forest and yet they had, indeed, uprooted. I’ve come to expect this in areas of second growth or near logging slashes but here, in this spared area, it came as a surprise.

No doubt climate change plays a large part in this. We suffered a drought that summer and our temperate rain forest felt the lack: without the moisture the foundation weakened. This change is partly my responsibility. Would I be here today, living with the privilege I do, without the earth ravaging technologies that spurred on the growth I currently enjoy?

But still, here, in my little protected area, is there something else, forgive the unintentional pun, afoot?

I hike a lot, several times a week my feet walk the trails, stepping on roots, shifting dirt. I hike for solace, I hike for fitness; I hike for my spirit. Is my pleasure hurting those with whom I seek sanctuary? It is part of the issue, for sure. One has only to hike the more popular trails to see the damage many feet have done to roots. Then again, I feel it is only salt on the wound.

These fallen trees have stood tall for two centuries or more. They are not the oldest trees on record, middle aged, one might say. Why did they fall? I fear for those who still stand. Will they live to become elders? Are they falling now because we have cut down so many of the ancients? Do trees hear the lament of others, perhaps many kilometers away and surrender to the elements in knowing what’s to come? Or do they fall because few are left to teach resilience? What do we know of the communication that these beings have between each other?

Ecologist speak of mycorrhizal fungi—beings within our rich earth—who live symbiotically with trees. The fungi increase access to important minerals (for the trees) and receive vital chlorophyll from their verdant hosts. Their lives, connected by a vast web of fibres, depend on each other. It has also been shown that winter-tolerant conifers have aided other, more fragile trees, by transferring not only food through these fibres but disease protecting properties. In other words, they communicate with each othersupport one anothermuch like we, as humans do, through our own mass of fibres: the internet.

But I don’t need a scientist to tell me that trees communicate. 

I hike, as I said, regularly. In the early morning hours I walk the dark path, mindfully trying to avoid the roots that arise above the soil. I have friends within this forest and I stop to acknowledge our kinship. Most times I am not still enough to hear their individual voices with clarity but I know they are communicating; I know what they are saying is important. Sometimes I hear their message. But it is like learning a new language without fully immersing oneself into the culture.

When I do still my inner being—really still it, that is, with an awareness of only oneness—I hear their voices. The middle aged ones, it seems, are more keen to establish a connection. They are playful, eager to create relationships.The aged ones are more reticent, but then again, perhaps it is only me and I anthropomorphize too much. Perhaps the ancients only require a deeper stillness. When I gift them with that, words seem unnecessary. The transfer of energy enough.

But I have rerouted this essay to be about me. The question remains: why do healthy trees fall? I have not yet directly asked this question to those in the forest who would truly know; perhaps I do not want to know the answer. 

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Thursday, November 10, 2016


As I near the trail head in the early morning hours, a shadowy figure approaches. I stop. A frisson of fear races up my spine. It takes but a few seconds to realize it is my shadow, come alive from the street light behind. I go forth to meet her. Even though I now know who she is, a whisper of trepidation remains. Knowing someone is never complete, there is always something more to learn. What does she want from me today?

Our shadows are our hidden selves, the parts of us we try so hard to remedy with the good, the kind and the generous. Despite this, maybe even in spite of this, they are not so easy to be gone with. Shadows don’t resolve with charitable deeds, nor do they disappear by ignoring them. No, our dark parts need recognition: they are here to teach us things.

I walk forward as she comes towards me. We are so much alike and yet, given similar circumstances, I know she would respond differently—she betrays my fears, my resentments; my impulsive judgments. She is the part of me that can be so alive in my thoughts that I must fight hard to keep her there. I also know that it is neither the shadow nor even the light that directs my actions—I always have a choice. And therein lays my fear. I have so much more to learn; and there will always be choice.

Over the last decade or two, the US has been slowly approaching her own shadow, tiptoeing at times and barraging forward at others. On November 9, this great country to our south, elected a president who manifests this deepening penumbra. Americans made a choice and now must deal with the consequences. The majority have not only decided to embrace the shadows of racism, xenophobia and sexism, to name but a few, but are allowing these fears to lead. 

Let us as Canadians watch and learn. We have our own shadows, no one is immune, but it is up to us to educate ourselves about them rather than letting them take over. There are many examples but to name just three: the cultural genocide of our indigenous peoples; the ravaged land (both local and foreign) caused by resource extraction; and our dependence on fossil fuels . These are but a few of our shadows, there are many more. My point is that Canadians are not a beacon of shining light or, for that matter, a hell hole of darkness. What we are is a nation that must continually make a choice of which path we are to follow. For whatever we are given, we always have choice.

I face my shadow in the quiet stillness of the morning and ask what she can teach me today. No words come forth but I know she is listening. As I walk away from the light and into the darkness she becomes one with the forest. The teachings will come, they always do.

If you like this blog, please "like" my FaceBook page and get notices on your timeline when a new article is posted.
Also check out my newest blog, the Modern-Day Renaissance Woman where you will find excerpts my new book, Notes from the Bottom of the Box.