Flicker’s New Year Gift – Part 2 of 2 by Sara Wright

[Continued from yesterday…]

All sentient creatures are negatively affected by the deaths of one species.

And still people refuse to see.

As I wrote about the loss of trees and woodpeckers old tree memories surfaced without warning. Resolutely, I faced my past…

Thirty five years ago I left the coast of Maine because trees were being slaughtered and their insides ground up so million dollar homes could be built. Initially, I believed that I escaped tree carnage by moving to the edge of the wilderness in the western hills only to discover that whole mountains were being strip logged around me. The stench of pitch nauseated me. I wept, helpless in the face of such violence.

It was then that the trees began to speak to me, at first through dreams and later because I had learned to listen. I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I suspect the trees taught me without words – communicating telepathically. I spent every day with trees in my forest, hiked to other wooded areas on a regular basis, sat under hemlocks by my brook, tenderly caressed rough ashen trunks and the smooth gray velvet of maple and beech, rejoiced in the pines when they protected wild bear cubs in their uppermost branches while their mothers foraged, sometimes miles away. And when the fruit trees blossomed on ‘my land’ I experienced a wondrous sense of tree renewal – if only for a few precious weeks each year.

The trees taught me that it was my job to witness for them not just in their living, but in their dying. For many years I spoke to no one about this latter “personal affliction”. I honestly believed I had been singled out to experience a hell that no one else could see or feel and some days I thought that the screams of one more tree crashing to the ground or one more devastating tree dream would kill me. There was no reprieve. Every time I tried to talk to someone about tree death I was ridiculed. I shut up and learned to live with pain that had no outlet, except through journaling. I never dared to publish anything that had to do with what was happening to me with trees. Thirty- five years is a long time to grieve alone.

When I arrived in the desert three years ago, initially I felt profound relief to be free of trees altogether. Here reptilian ridged and cone shaped hills and mountains dominated the landscape. Trees were scarce except for serpentine shaggy junipers and the magnificent Cottonwoods that held court by the rivers. However, I hadn’t been here a month when I adopted a seedling juniper in front of the place I was renting. In spite of my relief at leaving trees behind they snared me – I was in love again.

For a while I felt hopeful because I believed that junipers were allowed to live out their natural lives. Then, less than a year later I discovered that in the higher elevations the same logging horrors I had left behind were occurring here too. Next came the forest fires that burned for weeks clogging my lungs. I couldn’t breathe through the stench of managed and unmanaged forest burns, and some days when the wind blew the air reeked. Air pollution was a palpable threat here that no one talked about. Now I realize that people who live here simply can’t smell it. It wasn’t long before I could hear the trees screaming for water. A new element of tree catastrophe entered the picture; how ironic that I came here to escape tree pain. It was worse here than in the Northeast. Would anything but our mutual deaths ever alleviate this intolerable (to me) suffering of ours?

And then something remarkable happened. On the night of the winter solstice I went to listen to a Navajo storyteller who also happened to be a seer. With deep compassion she spoke about how humans had used/abused Nature and dismissed her as being irrelevant, and that as a result human extinction was on the horizon. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t suspected this probable outcome – as a naturalist and ethologist I had been advocating tirelessly on behalf of all Nature for too many years to prevent this possibility from becoming reality. I tried to keep hope in the picture as long as I could. During the last two years I slipped out of hope into endurance – That, and crushing heartbreak that virtually no one, but my friend Lise, was willing to witness.

After hearing the words about the inevitability of human extinction I finally surrendered. As I left the room that night I felt as if an intolerable burden had been lifted, and that I was finally free.

The next morning I walked to the river and for the first time in thirty- five years leaned into the trees in their dying without pain.

In the hole that opened up during my final surrender, primordial gray winged birds of peace and acceptance had taken up residence within me. Humans will die, but Life will continue and trees will live on too; not in their present form, but 400 million years of sentient living, loving, serving will help them create new forms.

As I returned to the present moment I had answered my question about why it was so important that Flicker carved holes: carving out holes (wholes?) creates space for a new kind of becoming. The Earth is singing about beginnings because her time is drawing near…


Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.

Categories: Activism, animals, Grief, Healing, Nature, Spirituality, Winter Solstice

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12 replies

  1. I too am consumed by grief. I look forward to acceptance and surrender.


  2. I think it is important to come to a clear-eyed and not personal acceptance of what is happening and what may happen. While we can do our part for good or ill, the fate of the world is not about me and thee.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t help but wonder what those new sentient beings will be. Will “mankind” make the human body forever extinct? That’s something I can’t quite imagine, at least not yet. But as I watch the news about the fires in Australia that have killed maybe a billion animals, I’m beginning to believe it could happen.

    Several years ago, a museum in Los Angeles bought the Space Shuttle. In order to haul it from the Port of L.A. to the museum, which is inland, they cut down living and healthy trees along several major streets in the city. They could have just taken the wings off the Shuttle and it would have fit on the streets. But, no. They had to keep the Shuttle intact and kill hundreds of trees. I was so mad then–and I’m still so outraged–that I have refused to go to that museum. Which is otherwise very nice.

    Thanks for writing these two posts. I think Carol is right: the fate of the world isn’t just about us as individuals.


    • Agreed – I have never believed that Earth’s fate was just about us or me – and that was certainly not my intent when I wrote this article – I’m sorry it came through like that – but it is possible to tap into the bigger picture by developing intimate relationships with some part of nature – and my experience is just one example – for me for some reason the trees do speak and have been doing so for a long time.

      It’s comforting to know that trees have been around in some form for 400 million years… I believe as some scientists do that trees have been around long enough to develop bio fields that will sustain the patterns for their continued existence. I think that it’s likely that this will allow trees to re establish themselves in some form and perhaps animals too…but humans? We are the youngest species on the planet – a mere two hundred thousand years old – We have made a mess of everything – In less than a hundred years we have brought so many non – human species to the edge of extinction – and now the story is turning on us…From an naturalist/ethologist’s point of view I think we are just in too deep. Twenty years ago I think we still had a chance…

      I don’t think we can imagine humans not being on the planet – I know I can’t – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We have all been educated into this top down reality with humans at the apex…we are learning the hard way that the loss of insects/krill ultimately means that the food chain is BROKEN and humans will be effected too.

      As far as sentience goes I think humans are going backwards.

      Amazingly, we don’t seem to be able to wrap our minds around what Climate Change is really is spelling out for all of us.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sara, thank you for this essay and your additional comments; I resonate with so much of what you’ve described. You said “I believe as some scientists do that trees have been around long enough to develop bio fields that will sustain the patterns for their continued existence.” I too align with the biofield theories; I’ve worked long enough in energy medicine to feel this as truth in that area as well. And I TOTALLY agree that “as far as sentience goes I think humans are going backwards.” Blessings to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I am pleased by this response Darla, thank you so much. It’s hard to talk about human extinction – it pushes horrible buttons for people – I am usually more circumspect but lately I feel compelled like never before to share my experiences – so I am putting myself out there in ways that i haven’t before…Risky, I know.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you, Sara. Yes, indeed, the grief is utterly overwhelming. Tallessyn writes about how our attachment to various things – including our own survival – can hinder us in our efforts to find resilience in the face of climate apocalypse. I find it moving that the trees, in welcoming you into their own death story, helped liberate you from such attachments… finding sources that help us endure and persist and refuse to surrender our soul, even as we surrender our lives and our attachments, is a hard, hard task for me… thank you for giving me more ideas and insights into this work. <3

    Liked by 1 person

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