It is almost deafening, pressing upon me with unvoiced expectation. I hear my own heartbeat, steadily humming under the bones of this body, asking no more than I’m willing to give it. I hear nothing else.
The forest is immoving as Mother Earth sleeps- winter is here. The wind stirs, lifting locks of my hair in loving caresses, as it whispers through the trees and stirs fallen leaves.
I close my eyes, feeling the cold chill of the breeze and now hearing it kiss the tops of the trees above me. Stubborn leaves that have not fallen with their brethren sway back and forth. Their harmony is hypnotic, echoing in time with the gusts- crescendos of crispy sounds move all about me. It is as if the forest is breathing.
With my eyes still closed, I begin to smile. My own breath is now calmer, focused but relaxed. I hear another noise, it is the stirring of a small creature to my left. Already still, I aim to become as frozen into the landscape as possible. Tiny footsteps, the barest of noises, scurry closer. Their pattern seems random, and my mind cannot picture the animal to which they belong. A small tweet brings an even wider smile- silly, witch, it’s a bird. A single call from far away, a lonely but loud chirp, in the quiet of winter signals more life unseen.
I listen harder, letting my soul sink into the ground- becoming one with my surroundings. Far away, almost too far to be heard, is the rushing sounds of moving water. I can feel it flowing, as if through me, as I listen to its canerous music- and suddenly, it’s louder, as if the forest has found me listening and wanted to impress. I can hear the stream bubbling over worn stones, and the longer I listen, the smoother I feel.
I open my eyes. The sun is brighter. I wonder if this is my imagination or if this is how Earth feels when she wakes from her winter slumber and reaches with life toward the warm rays. I stretch, high above my head, lifting my heels off the ground until I can almost feel the sun reaching down toward me in a return embrace.
The forest is no longer silent, and the weight of the expectations- now, clearly recognized as my own, has left me. I am a child of the forest now, and Mother Earth is wide awake.
I see the trees with a new appreciation, where before they were gray and lifeless, now I see them resting- rejuvinating to bring beauty and life into spring. I begin walking, unsure where these feet- grounded and secure in the knowledge that they are loved- will take me.
I pass a stone, and I wonder its age. Peering closer, this stone immovable and nonliving, holds space for the forest by provide a surface for moss to grow. It occurs to me that there is life here, right in front of me, that wouldn’t have been there had that rock- with its seemingly insignificant existence- rested in that particular spot. The forest is teaching me a lesson, and I- the eager student- am listening.
I thank the stone for its patience, and appreciate the moss. I continue on, again, not sure where I will head. I come upon a small dry creek bed, and I know that if I follow this, it will lead me to the stream I now hear roaring in the distance. Excited, I begin to walk more quickly.
Yet, nature is not ready for me to move so hurriedly. A noise brings my attention to a group of fallen trees. At first, they appear to be ordinary- until a cloud moves and the sun; with its loving gaze, it peers through their leaves in a halo of gloriousness. These trees, fallen against each other, sit directly in its path and I am filled with a sense of awe. I wonder- which tree fell first? It occurs to me that it matters not, for they are both supporting one another and I am there to see it. A sense of yearning comes over me, and I recognize that I’ve been too afraid to lean on others. I thank the trees for their lesson, and the sun for its shining moment.
I smile, and continue along the creek bed- slowly this time, for the forest and Mother Nature have many things to show me. Leaves blow around me, single echos of a breeze that has quieted to let me listen to the rest of nature’s symphony. A single stump, tall and dead, speaks to me. There is something beautiful about it and in the moment I wonder why I am drawn to such a thing. And then, I see it. It’s not just any stump, it is a home for the branchling now growing from its roots. I nod- realizing that death, in any form, is only a beginning for something else.
Further along, I come to the rippling of a wide and steadily flowing stream. I feel ancient here, older than my years could possibly make me, yet renewed- alive in a way I haven’t felt in a while. A song lifts in my soul and I am moved to tears, as something in me heals that I didn’t know was broken. Though I am not in the water, I can feel it flowing over me- washing away the worry, doubt, and insecurity that I have wrongly carried to it’s edges. I cannot hear a voice, but I know the stream is speaking to me. With tears in my eyes, I thank the stream, she has baptized me in her presence and I feel at peace.
On my walk out of the forest, Mother Nature begins to quiet again as the sounds of humanity edge closer; yet, the heaviness I felt before my communion is no longer there. I do not ache with unfair expectations, or tremble with insecurity. I walk sure, knowing that I am loved by the forest and by the Mother who created it.
My smile rivals the sun as I find my family, enjoying themselves with laughter and kinship. I join them and feel once again like myself. I have gone to church, and now I am better able to see my blessings. My son tells a silly joke, and the laughter that finds me is liberating- I once again thank the forest, for it has born the burden of my cares and left me at peace.
Thank you, Universe, for providing me with such a thoughtful church in which to worship.
I also thank my husband for allowing me the use of his camera today, to be able to show you.
Until tomorrow, my friends…