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April 1, 2021

Finding our Voice among the Trees.

We all need to find the time and a space to exhale.

The perfect writing spot is one where we can sit, observe, refocus, and reflect.

This place is the forest.

In the presence of trees, we are somehow able to crack open small pieces of our hearts, lift our moods, change our perceptions, and find all the answers. This brings us joy.

“Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

There is something spiritual about trees. After all, they have been here for thousands of years. Trees ground us and open us. Just looking at a tree makes us feel more rooted. We can sense that a tree sits as one with itself, in the energy of its own presence. In many cultures and folklore, trees are honoured for their wisdom, worshipped for their sacred knowledge, and recognized as symbols of life.

In a forest, trees are a community within themselves, each connected with the next through a complex root system. Trees work together, protect, and depend on one another, while continuing to bring us beauty, food, and oxygen. Each tree values the next, taking only what it needs from the earth, nourishing and tending to their sick.

The sounds, scents, sunlight, and fresh, clean air in a forest not only provide the ideal setting for us to connect harmoniously with ourselves, but to also bring us comfort and joy, making it the best location to sit and write.

I still remember the first time I played in a forest. Thinking back on it, I was too young to be in the woods without a parent; however, my little friend Suzy and I spent most of our days frolicking through the trees behind her house on Little Mountain, in the Fraser Valley.

As a child I was fascinated with mysterious places where I could run wild. Next to the cemetery, the forest was my favourite place to play. I grew up in the 60s when my bedtime stories included the likes of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Bambi. These cautionary tales warned of unknown things that lurk in a dark forest, but that didn’t stop me from running freely through the trees without a care in the world.

Suzy and I spent hours searching for gnomes, our arms full of tiny hand-made offerings and gifts for the forest fairies. Even as a young girl, I believed that placing an offering of a small bundle of flowers and foliage, hand-written notes, or a painted stone was my way of connecting, restoring balance, and saying thank you. Forest play brought meaning into my life and helped me create my own story to live by.

Back then, nature was my greatest teacher. I laughed as the pine trees threw their cones at my feet. I listened and learned as they held me in their branches and told me their storm stories. The forest taught me about birth, life, death, and regeneration.

Forest journaling as a grown-up has brought me an even deeper understanding of my life and gifted me a peaceful kinship with myself and the flora of an ancient soul.

The pandemic gifted me with a deeper desire to connect with the trees.

I was stuck at home but couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to be “stuck” in—British Columbia’s rainforest. In an effort to stay active, sane, and curious to discover more, I made a daily commitment, rain or shine, to touch a tree. It wasn’t easy at first to fit it into life with all the changes that were happening around me, but eventually, it became as important to me as eating, sleeping, and breathing.

I remember the first time I stepped into the Spirit Forest at UBC. I could feel it in my body as I walked down the path. I felt as though I was a kid experiencing Disneyland for the first time. Everything shifted that day. It was as though my soul knew that she was home. The energy in the forest was peaceful and the air was clean and damp. I was in love.

The more I walked in through the woods, the closer I began to look at the intricate ecosystem and the balance of life within the trees, the plants, and the earth. I saw how deeply human life is connected to the way a forest grows. We are mirrors to life in the forest. I understood my life as a reflection of the trees, the stumps, the moss, and the life that was surrounding me. Trees understand the necessity of death, new life, growth, and caring for one another. They tend for their sick; they never take up more room than they need to. A tree dies knowing that their growth will not have only been for themselves, but to nourish what is yet to come. I was seen in the forest in a different way from how I had ever been seen before. I became a question, instead of an answer. Whoever this woman was walking through the trees, was someone who I hadn’t known before.

For over a year, I have walked the woods and shed layers of myself on its pathways. I have written about it all along, expressing the feelings that I was experiencing in the forest. I have witnessed a profound shift in my creativity and noticed that the voice that I heard within myself every time I entered the forest become clearer, louder, and more profound. This voice is a voice that cannot be heard any place else in the world. I am thankful that the pandemic has led me to find myself, once again, among the trees.

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