Today is Arbor Day. I bet a distressingly small number of people are even aware of that. It is a day to plant trees and appreciate those trees that already exist. Today I’m thinking about the forest and our relationship to it.
Many rears ago, I used to vacation in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. I’d rent a cabin for two weeks, take my dogs and a whole bunch of books and groceries, and just go. I wouldn’t see another human being the entire time. I’d have no telephone and no television, and this was before the internet, so being on line wasn’t even a concern. I’d sit on the porch and read. I’d take a nap. I’d cook something and eat. But mostly what I’d do is watch the wind in the trees. Pure heaven.
My coworkers thought I was crazy. “Weren’t you scared?” they would say. But to be honest I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Not even for a second. Not even at night. It’s humans that are scary, if you ask me. No tree has ever done me harm. And there were no humans for miles. If a serial killer were persistent enough to find me, let alone kill me, then he would deserve to succeed after all that work. No, I am much more fearful in the big city than I am in the deep forest.
But forests show up in our myths and scary movies for a reason. When you are surrounded by pure nature, as far as the eye can see, you sense life. It’s easy to feel paranoid. Normally we place walls between ourselves and this type of life, so when you make the effort to surround yourself by a thick blanket of it, just you and nature, it can be overpowering.
I don’t look at forests that way. I don’t view them as malevolent. I feel the celebration of life. I see the beauty of creation. I feel embraced and at peace. I feel like I’ve come home.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
As an extra treat, I give you this link. It’s a radio interview with David George Haskell, a biologist who spent a year studying just one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. He’d go there every single day and just observe. And he has some profound things to say about what he learned. “We find wonder in the world by giving the world our attention, not by running around the world to find the most wonderful place, but to look at our homes, look at the places where we are in a new light, and that light is the light of our focus and concentration. And by doing that, whether it’s in a square meter of forest or a particular trail through an urban neighborhood, or a tree in a park, as we focus in, we see more and more, and the riches unfold in front of us.” It’s a fascinating interview. Check it out.
Happy Arbor Day. Hug a tree, people!