Teachings from Trees: Head for the Woods
Whenever I need to clear my head, especially in winter, I head for the woods where I know I’ll receive teachings from trees. The hardwood and coniferous community within easy walking distance I frequent, even for no reason, welcomes and energizes me. Peace, tranquility, and a softness descend with the snow. I lay my tobacco with gratitude at the foot of the birch and hemlock trees that guard the entrance, cross the bridge over the stream, and I’m in another world.
The tranquility calms me. The onset of change, relative stillness and solitude I welcomed in the fall, persists. It’s not what I’m used to, however. I’ve always been active and bringing things into being throughout the year. I love this quiet time, but shouldn’t I be doing more?
I explain my dilemma to the trees as I make my way along the path. Rounding a corner, the beauty overwhelms me and I stop to embrace the serenity of the sleeping woods. Silence pervades every space. The air is crisp and clear, cold against my cheeks. I wish I could stay all day. I raise my arms and open my heart to the heavens with a resounding thank you!
The answer dawns on me. This human being is a part of nature just like the trees and animals around me. We’re governed by the same laws of nature, the same cycles of seasons. Longer periods of darkness and cooler temperatures in the fall signal the onset of winter and trigger trees to go dormant. It’s a survival mechanism to conserve energy so they’re ready for growth in spring.
Growing up on the farm, winter was a time for Dad to do equipment maintenance, tree pruning, although that tended to wait until closer to spring, and hanging out with other farmers. It was ludicrous to try and force trees to bear fruit in winter.
Here in the woods it’s the same. Trees need to rest. The Earth needs to rest to provide the bounty we need to survive. We need rest too. But teachings from trees go deeper than that. I need to listen to my inner voice that always guides me true, including times of stillness, energy conservation, and growth. Like the trees towering around me, that’s how I live to my greatest potential, whatever that is!