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Posts Tagged ‘forest’

I heard an Oriole today. It puzzles me that I can hear him so close and still it takes me so long to find him. Finally, I am caught off guard with that splash of bright color on the edge of the forest.

Its been that kind of day. A day that the sky shows a lot of blue. A day that leaves you thinking spring is a pretty good time of year. A brisk walk feels comfortable. If you pick up the pace at all, you begin to sweat.

The dogwoods are in bloom. So are the redbuds. Most everything else is turning green. It’s the kind of day that spice bush is the dominant smell in the forest. The kind of day you can find plenty of fiddleheads and an occasional morel. There is plenty of dandelion also but it has already turned bitter.

Critters enjoy these days as well. It’s the kind of day you might spot an eagle flying overhead (I did). It’s the kind of day you might get too close to a pair of geese raising young. The kind of day the gander might step aggressively in your direction and let out an evil hiss (did I just quote Charlie Daniels).

Its the kind of day a Carolina Wren is trying to prove he can deliver more decibels per ounce than any of the other birds. It’s the kind of day to find one of the largest bullfrogs I have ever seen. I can remember when it didn’t seem like it counted unless I caught it. For some reason, I am now content just to find him. It’s the kind of day it seems a bumblebee is following wherever I go. I would like to find a honeybee and follow him back to his honey hive.

Did I mention that I heard an Oriole? I have started thinking about an Oriole feeder. I wonder if I can make it possible to see these colors more often? And then, you turn on the radio and hear Bono’s voice against the instruments of Larry, Adam, and Edge… “It’s a beautiful day… don’t let it get away…” Yes it is, it’s that kind of day.

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A quote from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p.41.

“Our local forests are full of large rocks. I can’t help but climb over them, jump from one to another, and enjoy the view they provide. Early in Luke, I read that God can turn stones into children of Abraham. In the next chapter, the Devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread. I live in the twenty-first century. I know that of all that has been discovered about them, stones are not likely to turn into children or turn into bread. Yet I sit on a large rock in the forest and am reminded by the Gospel during Lent that I live in a world that is not limited by what we think we might know in this century.”

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I am in the forest and leaves are falling. At times they are falling so hard it sounds like rain. Looking up, it is like I am watching the hardwoods throwing leaves from their branches and into the arms of the conifers. Who knew the trees played games of catch?

In the book The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben teaches us a thing or two about trees. He wants to make sure we know that individual trees are important. At the same time he insists a tree is only as strong as the surrounding forest. When trees unite to create a forest, the whole becomes greater than its parts. The well-being of a tree is dependent on the community of trees. Wohlleben suggests that trees are far more social than we might imagine.

One tree standing alone is at risk. It cannot establish a consistent climate. It suffers alone in wind and weather. But a forest of trees creates an ecosystem that moderates temperature, stores water, and generates humidity. Wohlleben insists that in a forest, trees care for one another. Every tree becomes valuable to the community and is worth keeping around as long as possible. Sick trees even receive support and nourishment from others until they recover.

Wohlleben is convinced that trees are able to communicate with one another. And not only one another, but with other creatures as well.  Who knew? He makes a case that trees care for one another. They share food with one another. The forest is a tree community. They need one another. Maybe those lively trees we read about in stories are not as farfetched as we think. Maybe trees are not the passive plants they appear to be. Maybe that really is a game of catch they are playing above me. Maybe the forest really is an enchanted place.

I am struck by the way Wohlleben talks about the forest in ways the New Testament talks about church. We communicate with one another. We care for one another. Like trees in the forest, we are stronger and more productive when congregated. Alone we are at risk. Together we are the church. We need one another. Just as an individual tree does not make a forest, an isolated Christian does not make a church. It is interesting that both forest and church are the dream of the same imaginative Creator. Perhaps we should not be surprised by any similarities. Whatever future research tells us about trees, I will never walk through the forest the same way again.

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Some things prompt thought and activity simultaneously. Hiking is one of those things. Hiking requires muscle activity and decision making. Hiking can prompt deep breathing and all senses on alert. It helps us learn to live with the gear we have and to live without unnecessary gear.

Hiking allows the imagination to become active. It helps you to see differently and to listen differently. Hiking helps you recognize the blurry line between beauty and danger. It helps you show reverence to both. Hiking will help you to appreciate undeserved gifts.

Hiking is like a trip to the cinema. The colors and acoustics and textures and contrasts and movement provide a live action performance going on all around you. Even the scenery reaches out to touch you. You respond to what is going on out there. And it responds to you. There is interaction. Hiking puts you into relationship. You are granted admission to a one time showing like no other. And you become part of the show.

Hiking surrounds you with life. You cannot take it all in. Annie Dillard says “in the top inch of soil, biologists found ‘an average of 1,356 living creatures in each square foot.’” Even if this figure is off by a creature or two this is a lot of life. She goes on, “ignoring them won’t strip them of their reality.” Life is in front of us, behind us, above us and beneath our feet. Hiking helps us understand that creation has us surrounded.

There is a practical element. Hiking will take you someplace. You might even grow from the experience. But the benefits are more than practical. You might make a discovery. You might get to know yourself. Hiking will do something to you. This is activity for the soul.

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Getting Outside

Earlier this week I was walking toward the east as the sun was climbing higher in the clear sky. It is February but the air feels like spring. A red tailed hawk flies into my view. He comes nearly overhead and then circles back toward the east. As he gets closer to the sun the light shines brilliantly through his outer feathers. As if he is outlined with angelic pinstripes. It is like he flew into a Thomas Kinkade painting. I watch until he is out of sight before I move on. It is just good to be outside.

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“I try to spend as much time as possible in the winter forest. It is a great place to sharpen the senses. Contrast, movement, and sound call attention to themselves in a hurry. Things are more visible in the bare deciduous woods, including evidence that something has already been there before you arrived. Then there is the winter forest at night. The senses sharpen more clearly. Temperature heightens the sense of cold on your nose and cheeks. Looking at the sky feels like a spectator sport. Noise and movement gain your attention quickly. It is not difficult to find yourself on the alert. If you are nothing else in the winter woods at night, you are aware. Sometimes you hear something, see something, discover something that makes this all feel like an adventure. But the fact is, in the forest it is always likely that you were discovered first. Some things are sure to grab attention, like the cold of a winter night. Other things are subtle and require sharpened senses. I hope to be attentive.”

– from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p. 29

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I am a traveler in the forest. Winding my way through the dark, through a light snow and through the trees toward the trail that will take me back to the road. I see my breath against the clear sky where a slim crescent moon and a brilliant evening star shine the brightest.

I am one who listens to the night. Waiting for a song or a call in the distance but all I hear is the wind in the branches of nearby trees. Blowing across some of these creates a whistling sound. Blowing against others causes a percussion effect. Tonight’s entertainment is acoustic and instrumental.

I am a weather watcher. I think of Annie Dillard’s comment “We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”

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