Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Healing Amidst the Trees

I have always been drawn to extremes. Sought out grandiose and exotic destinations to satisfy my wanderlust soul. Every commitment I make is contingent upon the next big adventure. I often feel restless and will do anything to challenge routine, defy the mundane and beat back the ordinary. This resistance to settle has taken me to places that I never could have imagined. But like the old saying goes, “what goes up, must come down.” Returning home to my "normal life" after spending a summer getting paid to live a life less ordinary always left me feeling a little hollow, a bit depressed, and totally and utterly bored.

I tried to be content, and at times I was. But always in the back of my mind I could hear my personal mantra on repeat. Quietly but constantly whispering "we only have one go at this thing called life, so why are you not making every second count?!" And somehow, early this year, staring down the barrel of 30 and feeling that all too familiar restlessness churning in my soul yet again, I looked around and found myself standing smack dab in the middle of the wettest and most northwesterly incorporated town in the lower 48, wearing my Xtratuf’s and ready for a little adventure.

But this time, I had somehow landed, in a sense, in my own backyard on the Olympic Peninsula; in a hardworking Pacific Northwest town that struggles to maintain a reputable identity, where headline grabbing wars exist between loggers and owls, and vampires and werewolves intermittently lay their claim to fame. People are tough out here. They are rugged and suspicious of outsiders or anybody who tries to tell them what to do with their land, especially “conservationists” or the hated “environmentalist.” Beginning in February of this year, I began working for North Olympic Land Trust to publicly open The Elk Creek Conservation Area, 255 acres of reclaimed logging land, in Forks, WA, for the specific purposes of Environmental Education and public recreation (but no ATV’s please...not on my land).

This piece of land is truly a gem, an unassuming observer, silently nestled into a lush verdant valley, often hidden beneath a shroud of mist and coastal fog. At first glance, the forest looks unimpressive to say the least. I dare say ugly. A sad, lonely uniform patch of small overcrowded trees, lacking diversity and a sense of wonder, where evidence of chainsaws and logging trucks reminds you of a chaos she once knew. But I encourage you to go, go into the forest, for there is a beautiful story lying in those branches that everyone should hear. As you journey deeper into the heart of the forest, her scars will become apparent and her pain palpable. Ghosts of giants from long ago, shamefully hidden between the seemingly endless rows of carelessly replanted hemlock will bravely emerge as the forest begins to reveal her tale.

As you walk along the newly cut trail, I challenge you to see the forest come to life. Be silent and listen to her softly spoken whispers, her birdsong, the flowing of life through the gurgling of the stream, the croaking of the frogs, the growing of the ferns, the dripping of the moss. Inhale deeply, letting the mortality of passing seasons fill your nose, mind and lungs. Allow the hauntingly familiar scents of chanterelles, decaying cedar, wet leaves and virgin soils implant on your soul, seeking comfort in the knowledge that without death and dying, there is no room for birth and renewal. Inhale the pungent odor of the skunk cabbage, leaching in from the swamps surrounding you telling you that spring is just around the corner. Encourage hesitant fingertips to indulge in the depth and moisture as they gently caress the thick living carpet of emerald moss. Allow yourself to indulge as the forest floor beckons you to lie down and rest. Allow her to wrap branches of Spruce around your shoulders and carry your hurried thoughts away with the wind. Let her take your worries, your troubles, and your fears as you breathe in life, strength, and patience. Close your eyes and feel the timelessness envelope you. Find peace in this adventure, your adventure, and be present in the now, here, with the forest, listening, watching, feeling, being.

This is my forest, my office, my refuge, the place I go to work, dream, live, and breathe. I came looking for the next big adventure and I found a sense of place. In the past 3 months, I have felt the restlessness dissipate, my days are less than ordinary and despite the chaos, I have found time to breathe. The forest, my forest is wise and I have found that if you listen she will teach you a lesson in peace. Despite her scars and the turmoil she has known, she will gracefully heal from the chaos. She will reclaim what is rightfully hers and live confidently in her place.
My vision grew in the forest xo

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Reads like hippie-shroom talk to me :}