Last night I was reading Forest Scientist Susanne Simard’s new book “Finding the Mother Tree”. She was writing about how uncanny it was that her personal life has paralleled that of trees, the forests, the plants, the fungi, the mycorrhiza (underground networks), she has been studying for more than thirty years. This weaving of Nature’s ways through human lives has also been my life experience, although I am a naturalist and not a scientist. (I capitalize the word “nature” to accord her the Sovereignty that is missing because most humans see Nature as a “resource” to be used – not a Living Being). I take note of the fact that so many of these tree advocates are women.
I observe and listen to Nature by paying close attention to weather patterns, to flourishing or withering leaves, bowed or broken trees, to wind, to parched ground, to birds, to animals, to water, to fire, water, earth and air, and by being emotionally present to whatever is happening in my own backyard while scanning earth and sky for ‘signs’ of what’s to come. I receive the answers I need if not through a bird sighting, a porcupine, a clump of moss, a dying tree, then through dreams. For months now I have been threatened by the immanent loss of our forests by way of dreaming.
Of course, I am also physically assaulted on a daily basis by tree death. The demand for lumber is so high because hoards of people are building million dollar homes in this area. Add to this, people who slaughter the few trees they ‘own’ on half – acre plots for “good money”. The Mountains have been stripped. Once lush tree lined highways have been widened; trees slashed and chipped up for bio – mass. On this property I have lost more of my forest to winter ice, freeze – thaw and spring winds than I have in almost 40 years. Every time the Northwest wind blows the remaining unprotected birches bend lower – some will fall in my front yard before autumn, and the road that used to be a cathedral of graceful arches bends dangerously low to the ground.
I am aware that my dying forest dreams are not just about what’s happening here. They also involve the future of all Life, as we know it. Most people refuse to contemplate that an earth losing its trees to greed and overpopulation will eventually lead to an inability to breathe and the death of most sentient creatures and plants. Ecological Species Collapse and Climate Change seem abstract or non-existent to so many.
Meanwhile, I am living through a grieving process so monumental that few can imagine. As the poet Rilke states, “ Now you must go out into your heart as onto a vast plain. Now the immense loneliness begins”. As the trees fall, the climate warms, the animals, birds, and waters disappear, I am losing the will to live.
As Susanne writes, “I was born to the wild. I come from the wild. I can’t tell if my blood is in the trees or if the trees are in my blood”. As far as I can tell I belong to the trees, the forest, clear water and rain, and drought has become the enemy stressing the trees who are already struggling, along with the whine of giant buncher machines (run by men) that will continue to strip the earth of its forests until they are gone.
Too many losses have emptied my life of meaning.
Two weeks ago on the anniversary of the day I buried my brother’s ashes I was down by the brook visiting his spirit at Trillium rock. I was sitting on a little bench that my dad once fashioned reliving the day I brought my brother’s ashes home, gazing at the unfurling wild trillium I planted in the crevice to mark his gravesite by the brook. A spiraled ammonite eye is nestled in the overhang above. This is a place he would have loved because we spent our childhood in the woods playing in/around a streams and marshes. Davey’s spirit finally came to peace here as his favorite bird, the Red tailed hawk, watched over him.
Every year I re-imagine what it would have been like to spend my life with this little brother I so adored. Davey was more than a brother to me; he was the male counterpart of myself. When I lost my fleet footed brother I lost a self and an internal sense of personal power. I have never recovered either.
Men with guns moved in instead.
For many years I searched for my brother in others, gravitating towards anyone who seemed to love some aspect of Nature. Some loved animals, others trees, wildflowers, bears, or some other aspect of the natural world but no one loved them all… not like he did. I no longer seek him in others, accepting the fact that my brother was unique, that we shaped each other’s lives as children/adolescents and that I lived on for both of us. I became a fierce defender of all Nature writing my way through my own hell. I will die this way.
After spending quiet time at Trillium Rock I started up the hill. Suddenly, I was possessed by such a horrifying thought that I thought it would unhinge me: I’m so glad Davey’s dead. Living with the horrors of Biodiversity collapse and Climate Change would have killed this most sensitive of male souls, this son of the Great Mother, a young man who had no use for power. Finding home in Nature, he was Earth’s lover, content to be part of the whole. A man like this has no place in a culture that predicates itself on power, vengeance, violence and greed. As the truth sunk in I recalled the words he had written so very long ago. “My sister is the survivor”. He was right. Until now.
At this very moment few drops of drizzle splashed over my face, or perhaps they were tears.
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 Maine.