The woodsy air born from the thousands of years old coast redwoods filled my lungs on a Sunday morning 45 years ago. My California girl’s spirit awakened. I took the first steps along a new path as nature whispered her song into my ears. Harmonic resonance beneath the aged ones, those sentries of the primeval forest, comforted and healed my wounds of the day.
Though a pup in my personal timeline, I did “Seek ye counsel of the aged, for their eyes have looked on the faces of the years and their ears have hearkened to the voices of Life. Even if their counsel is displeasing to you pay heed to them.” (Kahlil Gibran, The Words of the Master.)
Like now, troubles headlined world news. Fear fueled paranoia. A cyclical change rolled through society. Discourse bred defiance. So I took to the trails beneath the aged trees—some with the wisdom of 2000 years at their roots—sought counsel and listened.
They didn’t speak a word. They simply stood there and inched further into the sky and added rings to their girth. What did I expect? Would instant wisdom rain down upon me? Clearly, that did not occur. But I left understanding that that moment in time was fleeting and temporary. I left understanding that even though we humans cut and harvested the bulk of this forest’s family, other humans heard the family of sempervirens preservation plea—for the sempervirens’ moment in time is not temporary, unless we make it so.
When time came to leave the redwood forests, I hugged those tall trees in body and spirit. Life brought me births, deaths, conflicts, books, quests, love, sadness and joy. The redwoods faded into my foggy memory.
Recently, age and wear took its toll on my ability to walk. Three separate injuries that first occurred after I left the redwood forests converged into an ugly knee that took me down—not unlike a chain saw to the wood. This down time wasn’t at a complete loss. I choose not to be destined to becoming a beautiful deck or frame for another’s house. So I took the time to grow— I queried and listened to matter outside of my comfort zone. My discovery included a black and white world with divisive and barbed walls. Common kindness, empathy and compassion, I learned, are, according to this sect of thinking, a sign of weakness. Power to the sword. Power to acquisition. Power to me! These thoughts did not seem akin to the wisdom of the ages.
It was as if a mythological goblin slipped out from beneath a muddy rock and tricked once kindhearted people into a dark underworld.
This made me rethink and question my core.
Meanwhile, a relatively simple surgery repaired my knee followed by weeks of physical therapy. I had no idea how far my body had slipped away from well-being. Each day, post-surgery, I learned the proper way to walk, and realigned the ligaments and muscles that literally twisted my knee from forward to sideways. Then one day, I walked for over three miles with no pain. A life-metaphor was in the works. “Strengthen your core,” advised the physical therapist, “and you will return to walking and just about anything you wish.”
The exuberance that overcame me after accomplishing a simple thing like a 3-mile painless walk inspired me to continue both spiritual and physical core strengthening. And this led me to a recent return to that same redwood forest of my youth.
This time I would not only inhale the woodsy air of these ancient trees, but I would embrace every bit of their wisdom. And, yes, I could again trek up an inclined trail—albeit not like the lithe youth 45 years back—but I proved to myself that core strengthening works in both body and spirit.
Nature’s cathedral is not temporary like politics and power. Nature’s temple nurtures without a demand for anything other than reverence and respect.
My silver hair and softened body announces that I’m a senior citizen. A brief timeout at sunrise with the trees brought life back into its proper perspective.
There is much work to do as my California girl’s spirit reawakens.