I’ve been going to the woods lately because it’s a simpler, quieter place than what’s in the news. Walking helps me find grounding inside. On a recent walk, I asked for guidance and insight about what we’re facing lately.
I spent the first hour or so fuming. Expletives were uttered. Tears shed. My mind rehashed the news and egregious actions of people I disagree with. At home, in front of a screen, I focus so much on the details. Out in the woods, the big picture is much clearer.
The walk gets steep in places, demanding the walker’s full concentration and energy. Heart rate goes up with exertion, along with body temperature and deeper breathing. In the second hour, my mind got quiet and still. Calmer. I’d walked my sillies out.
At one point, I stopped to stare in wonder at the river’s path over the impenetrable basalt ledge. The ancient cedars. The cold mist rising up from the thundering cascade—a white noise so powerful it’s more vibration than sound. To think I’d been obsessed with who has all the power. No, this is power. This is strength. This is what’s enduring. Humanity is nothing compared to this river falling cold and clear.
I hiked on in wordless peace.
And that’s when the insight came. Next to the path was an ancient cedar, cut down at several hundred years old. A solid, massive stump of wood (hat for scale).
Beside it, still on the ground, the whole tree—never turned into ceiling beams or flooring or even firewood. What a waste, I thought, pained.
However, as I stopped to take in its enormity, I noticed a feathery emerald stick emerging from the fallen tree. Several of them. And I remembered: this is what ecologists call a nurse log. When a mature tree falls, seeds sprout in the bark and receive energy and nourishment to grow. As one thing dies, new life springs up from it.
And I immediately understood the relevance for my country today. Something is being cut down. It seems tragic, lamentable, painful. And yet, something beautiful is rising up from it, fueled by enduring wisdom.
It will take time, but what is passing away now will serve as nourishment for what is to come. Perhaps you can already see sprouts of new growth from courageous seeds.