“As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.”~Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with trees. Living like a hermit, alone, lost in my own thoughts, I meander in and out of the forest trails near my home. As I hunker down in my home while chaos whirls around the world, I spend more time outside in the quiet, soulfully musing about trees, forests and the soul.
The woods are a quiet escape and I’m grateful to rediscover the part of my soul that rejoices in being in nature. Somehow, it seems that over the past few years, I have disconnected from being in and enjoying nature. How exactly did I let this happen?
I study the trees on my walks. I am amazed at and bewildered by their rooted-ness and stillness. The trees simply exist. There is no drama, no conflict, no ego in the bio-sphere of these woods.
These forest groves simply exist and time has no meaning. Here they stand, even before the indigenous tribes settled these parts. Here they stand, as the white man came, pushed out the indigenous peoples and built the cities around them using slave labor from the stolen people of Africa. Still standing strong, these woods, provide spiritual and emotional comfort during these days of quarantine and isolation.
Trees are solid creatures. I’m not too ashamed to say that I’ve been hugging them on my walks, as human touch is not possible these days. It feels rapturous to wrap my arms around the trees. Feeling the solidness deep into my soul. Gazing up as I hug a tree, I see it’s branches, outstretched and grasping, reaching deep into the sky. Is it also trying to seek divine union with it’s God?
In the woods, alone, away from my familiar routines, I become a person and spiritual seeker outside of my day-to-day identity – that identity forged through all the life experience that has made me “Rinnie” – my family structure, education, the communities I’ve lived in, my work. Multiple identities really, always in flux, depending on where or with whom I interact. Identities I claim for myself, and identities thrust upon my by others in my circle.
However our identities are forged, they do demand things from us – tangible, material things like shelter, money, food, a good job. Identities also demand emotional and psychological things as well – connection, recognition, success, acceptance, and safety. We are often at odds – painful so – with others, competing for the wants identity craves. Wars are built upon identity. Systems of oppression, built on identity. Liberation movements, yes, built around identity.
As I want through the forest and trees, though, off the beaten path at times, all I can hear around me are my own clunky footsteps. These days, those steps seem loud and off-putting to me. My steps echoing those clamoring wants and desires of the things I think I need.
In the quietness of the forest, I begin to see where much of what I desire comes from ego, rather than a deep spiritual place of purpose and connection with God. With much serenity, in this moment, I can let go of the wants and desires. A quiet peace transcends into my heart.
It’s easy to meander and ponder these days. Drama and conflict are minimal, as I am not moving in and out of the communities of people that shape and define who I am. I wonder what all this will mean though, when I’m out of the woods and my home, back to work, back to my communities. Can I take this simple peace I’ve found with me?
Can I bring this sense of spiritual wonderment back with me, and embrace others in love (like I embrace the trees) and see other people as solid creatures as well – arms outstretched, wide, seeking union with their God? Can I really let go of the things that I desire and seek? In 1st Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.” When I am back into community, can I be a true vessel of love, letting go of wants, and simply embracing what I already have? Will such letting go free up my energies to be a creative, loving energy in this world, simply seeking to shine God’s kin-dom into this broken world?
To be continued…
~~Friends, do not let yourselves become too isolated during this time. Reach out and continue to connect as much as you can. Fear, anxiety and isolation can take it’s toll. Stay strong. Stay connected. Need prayers – drop me a line.~~
Much peace and many blessings, to you and yours, fellow traveler.
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