During a difficult time in my life, living in a remote forested area, I would force myself to go walking to escape the darkness in my house, letting the grace of the trees overtake me.
Their calm was like a blanket on a sleeping child, a silent solace that quieted my heart and soothed my nerves. There, I found the strength to let go, forgive, surrender and finally become my true self — a beacon rather than a shadow, realizing that life was not a struggle, but a flow of rhythms and dances — complete and beautiful. This permeated my soul and I carried it out of the forest in my pocket like a treasure. In the midst of clamor, I know it is there and every cell in this body hums a smile. I believe this is not unique to me and that trees have the power to heal anyone who seeks them out; without them the world would indeed be dark.
On my walks, my father’s memory was a solid presence. As a child I had been drawn to him like a flea to a dog, as if there must be something sustaining that I could glean from him. We talked and between the words, somewhere between the spoken and the thought, I picked up something profound: He had a treasure in his pocket and it’s presence brought peace.
We walked in the woods, me tagging along in spite of spiders that fell into my hair. He identified every tree by name. Even then, I sensed this was relevant and reverent to him. Once he pointed out a squirrel scurrying through the oaks and we watched upward, long after his trail had vanished. The feeling from that moment has lasted my entire life, albeit, often lurking in my subconscious amid the clatter.
At 16, he joined the CCC. He survived in make shift camps in the wild. He built the Parkway, he planted trees. He was part of something bigger than himself. In retrospect, I am sure he carried something out of there in his pocket; for the next turn of events was merging into the Army; then WWII — from the forest to pandemonium — and barely shaving regular.
I know now what got him through; how he seemed unscathed by the obvious horror he had witnessed. I feel sure there were times when that “gift in his pocket” was a light in the darkness, and when he returned to the light he held that darkness close to his bosom. In this contradiction there was a negation of either’s magnitude, from this union consciousness was born; it’s life fleeting, it’s memory stuck to the nape of his neck like a hungry mosquito.He was like a tree; his message to me was whispered. I had only to be still, to stop the noise to hear.
I have made my peace with spiders and live with belief in divine creation itself; for every tiger gone, a new life rises up, for every river diminished an ocean is reborn.