Saying Goodbye (Refuge), Part 1 by Sara Wright

Pincushion Moss

 Leaving chores behind I bundled up and grabbed a trowel and drove between still waters to my beloved forest. The premature snow had melted, cracked ice created fantastic glittering patterns in shallow waters informing me that it was probably too late to dig plants for the frog house. Al, scientist, scholar and naturalist, Owl, my friend had just given me a terrarium, someday to become a frog house… my intention was to gather moss and jagged pieces of lichen covered bark…maybe a partridgeberry or two for both of us. Coming here to Hemlock Hollow seemed like just the right place. I also had come to say goodbye to my friends the Hemlock trees for the winter season…

At first, I scrambled around disappointed that most plants were frozen in including the sphagnum moss. Not wanting to disturb sleeping plants, I lifted pincushion and red stemmed moss that grows quickly and visited an old log ripe with rich soil and rotting sides which came away easily. This decaying wood would make walls for my frogs to cling to as vines crept up the sides. Picking up lichens on old sticks, I also uprooted two tiny hemlocks growing on a log that would thrive in a moist environment. Satisfied, that a little of this forest would spend the winter with me I returned to the car with enough bounty to satisfy both Al and me. I was going to give him and his frogs more than half of what I gathered as a surprise.

After eating my sandwich sitting on granite overlooking the water my focus softened. Suddenly the sparse ground of the forest seemed to glow. Club mosses caught fire in the slanting sun. I had been mourning the end of the season and now I was experiencing a sense of abundance. Each plump pincushion, gray green lichen seemed to be trying to get my attention. Empty was full! I couldn’t explain it – a veil had parted. Winter might be coming but I was being given a gift; to witness the end of the season.

 Soon the last fall colors – wheat, cinnamon, rust, gray, oak brown, sage green would fade… Algae/lichen, mosses and old tree stumps would be wearing winter white, some resting, some photosynthesizing under ice or snow. I was ready to let go.

 I peered around taking in the wonder of slanted silver light on rapidly flowing river water, listened to silence, celebrating the wholeness I felt in this forest. As I traversed the winding path I began my conversation…. Endearments flowed. I have been so happy here. Some force always pulls me into NOW, and each twig, lichen and rock fern has something important to say.

 Last year a dream told me that my brother (whose ashes are buried on my land) now lives free in this forest and I can feel an amorphous presence – not him precisely – but some benign force…the kind of love that asks for nothing even as it overflows.… When I reach Hemlock Hollow I stop to visit with the trees, gazing up into whirling canopies, arms outstretched, crowns thick and healthy, all bowing to the river…Someday, I will be buried here. Reveling in the bushy green hemlock children I fall into spontaneous prayer – oh please let these beloved trees live on. I lean against the rough trunk of one; grief and gratitude are woven into one fabric. And I am a part of all there is.

Afterwards I return the same way I entered so I don’t miss the club mosses the hardwood trunk topped with spiked lichen, the reversed branches of the tall hemlocks, or the deep green hedges of young hemlocks all viewed from the opposite direction. There’s joy in this place and I wonder what might have transpired here to make it so. Good Spirits live here.

  The day after this visit I asked my friend scientist/Indigenous healer about this powerful sense of Presence and he tells me that what I feel is Spiritus loci. When I looked up the definition of Spiritus loci I note that contemporary ideas focus on a distinctive atmosphere or a ‘spirit of the place’ rather than a guardian spirit. I think it may be both depending on the place – a spirit of place, and some sort of guardian.  

Part 2, next week

BIO: Sara Wright 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.

Author: Sara Wright

I am a writer and naturalist who lives in a little log cabin by a brook with my two dogs and a ring necked dove named Lily B. I write a naturalist column for a local paper and also publish essays, poems and prose in a number of other publications.

6 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye (Refuge), Part 1 by Sara Wright”

  1. “There’s joy in this place and I wonder what might have transpired here to make it so. Good Spirits live here.” I think you are one of the Good Spirits who live there and your care of the forest is one of the things that has brought a spirit of joy! Humans, when we are at our best, are a beneficial element in the forest and other wild places, and we can be an essential wholeness-bringing part of the ecosystem, both in our physical and spiritual actions. I do think that the land and the beings who dwell there pick up on our intentions and emotional/spiritual states of being and we are, in turn, influenced by theirs. A beautiful piece and I can’t wait for Part 2!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carolyn I am convinced that you are right. ” I do think that the land and the beings who dwell there pick up on our intentions and emotional/spiritual states of being and we are, in turn, influenced by theirs.”


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