Summer solstice has passed, and the earth is reborn in miniature.
Tiny helicopter seeds on the manitoba maple are the size of my fingernail.
Acorns on the oak are tiny green pebbles.
Half-sized squirrels recklessly cross the ground near me, not yet having learned the caution of an adult.
Families of fledgling foragers feast! Magpie groups of about 5 birds array themselves in high bushes and low tree branches. The young, with their tell-tail stubby tail feathers, suitable for close quarters in the nest, still with the low raspy call of a nestling demanding food – always accompanied by the anxious adult shepherd with their long graceful tail & higher, piercing call.
A nuthatch came to the seed feeder yesterday, followed by another who watched from the tree, followed by a third – half the size of the adults. A young fledgling learning life outside the nest from her parents.
I’ve felt especially sympathetic to the nestlings this spring, as I cuddle close a young fluffy-headed chick of my own.
Taking the train across the northern prairies into mountain country is a delight: columnar conifers slipping by, lake surfaces luminescent in the moonlight…
We splurged on a winter deal at Jasper Park Lodge – admittedly a cushy way to experience the wilds of the mountains. From the Great Hall, crackle of fireplace nearby, comforting beverage in hand, bum firmly planted in cushioned armchair, this is the view that greets you:
And then there’s the view from the trail. Worth getting up for!
How amazing that there is a culturally approved opportunity to bring a real live whole tree into my home to sit in the front window of the living room for all the passers-by to see! It’s such an odd tradition, seen with fresh eyes. Why do we do it? There’s never a holiday where we bring a boulder into our homes.
Whatever the original reason, I’m delighted we do. I love trees. They’ve grown to have a significant place in my pantheon of spiritual practice. It began on a walk I used to take regularly on a path that led beside a row of evergreen trees. They called to me to brush their branch tips with my bare fingers. In winter I’d take off a mitt to let the direct contact happen. I was surprised to notice that I felt a subtle… something. Their energy, is one way of putting it. The trees of a park a little further down the path would call me to place my palm directly on their trunks, standing quietly with the tree. This palm-to-trunk contact inexplicably produces a calming, grounded effect in me.
The weekend has arrived when we must say farewell to the tree that has shared our home for weeks. I sit in the armchair beside it, artificial lights turned off in the dim morning light, so that the tree’s own spirit can shine through. I have treated it as a presence unto itself this year – welcoming it to my home and greeting it with a “hello, tree” occasionally.
I feel somewhat at odds with the tradition, though – much as I love having the tree in my home, it is a selfish human act. Of course it is dying – has been ever since it was cut – and soon it will be a mound under the snow in the alley.
But even well after cutting, I’ve found that wood retains its spirit. Furniture, walls, stairways, or flooring of wood can have the same effect. A certain cut across the grain to produce a thick sloping table edge fits the human hand well for that buzz of palm-contact. There’s something mysteriously special about trees – when we scurrying bipeds slow our pace enough to soak up their presence.
I brought my spirit to the sea;
I stood upon the shore.
I gazed upon infinity,
I heard the waters roar.
And then there came a sense of peace,
some whisper calmed my soul.
Some ancient ministry of stars
had made my spirit whole.
I brought my spirit to the trees
that loomed against the sky.
I touched each wand’ring careless breeze
to know if God was nigh.
And then I felt an inner flame
that fiercely burned my tears.
Upright, I rose from bended knee
to meet the asking years.
~ Max Kapp (1904-1979)
I love this poem because it speaks to me of spiritual comfort, strength, and nourishment found in nature; and nature as a connection to the divine.