A Monterey pine forest was within walking distance of my home in California. It’s mixed with native coastal live oaks, those storybook looking trees of gnarled branches and twisted silhouettes. A thoughtful group of volunteers placed benches along the winding path, giving all who take a moment’s refuge to rest their feet and minds, and to savor the peace that a woodland can offer.
So in the midst of a forest I frequently sat beneath a massive eight-prong oak — a tree of courage and strength.
Encircled by pines and oaks, there’s a grass-covered mound behind the bench. The mound was once inhabited by indigenous people. Their ghosts gave rhythm to the forest song: Jays squabbled. Like a drummer in the wild, a woodpecker hammered into a tree. A grey squirrel jettisoned straight up an 80-foot pine. Tiny birds, backlit by the morning sun, fluttered in the oak’s high branches. The gobble of wild turkeys echoed in the forest.
The woodsy incense of forest-life and debris invigorated my senses.
Reverence of the moment appeared to have consumed others who walked past me, like monks in prayer.
Life seemed abundant in this rare forest — one of three Monterey pine forests in the world. But it dies a bit more with each blink of the eye. Pines once with green needles are now tinged in burnt-sienna — the first sign of a tree’s fight for life.
Drought. Disease. Age. People. Earth. Wind. Fire. Water. A planetary juxtaposition of elements.
Scientists and naturalists work to find ways to save this forest. And it’s clear that the forest has a will to survive with each new seedling that sprouts after the rains and begins its journey to touch the sky and give home and shelter to the creatures below and above its branches.
It’s as if this forest has a mission to spread peace through renewal. I reveled in that mission.
We can’t always wander through a live forest in search of peace. Yet we can surely reseed woodland visions within our memories and revive a moment among the trees in our thoughts and meditations.