Forming a Relationship with a Forest is as with a Human Being

Forming a relationship with a forest is as with a human being, and also begins and is centered on opening our heart to the other. Then, listen, especially to unspoken words. See each other, not a fantasy projected from our longings. Have no agenda other than being open to what is actually there. Engage. Enjoy! Be willing to do inner work. Accept, don’t try to change, and embrace imperfection. Sit in silence, just be together, don’t try to fill space with what’s not being offered.  

I edited the above out of Learning to Love a Forest, wanting to keep the book as concise as possible.  But this text springs from the heart of Dwelling — learning to love.

First off, here is what love is to me — love is knowing the other, being open to their deepest desires and foibles, and being with them without judgment. Love holds the other for who they are, not who I want them to be. With time, a lot of time, I merge into the other — to know the oneness that’s always true — we both fully enter the space that unites us.

With this way to hold love, I enter the forest to learn how to love.

Truly opening my heart can be the most difficult thing I do. It takes vulnerability, and trust in the other. I grew up body surfing, and my favorite part is when, in the curl of the wave, I let it tumble me as it plays out. I’m completely alive in that moment, and I know I’m held by the ocean. And I can trust a forest, or any place unfettered on the earth. There’s a peace I feel in the forest that I don’t know anywhere else, except holding my baby daughter or grandchildren.

Listening takes humility, and humility — hummus is its root, translating to ground, or earth – is a primary teaching of the forest. The forest implores me to let go of all worldly concerns and be there, open — open heart, and open mind. When I can listen, humility opens a door — I’m free, I’m my true self, I’m the forest.

There is physical listening, to the birds and wind in the trees; and spiritual listening, to impulses the forest offers. These two realms are two sides of a coin; the coin is love.

Love is a verb, and I can love the forest when I’m engaging with Her. Listening and going where called, playing in the brook, climbing a tree, making nature art, dancing in a heavy rain, snowshoeing shivering in 3’ of snow, , singing hymns….

But then there is just sitting with the forest. I remember a friend once saying, during a long car trip, one of the most intimate things is to sit together without talking. Not taking his comment personally!, I practice this with the forest. I open to dissolve into the forest. I’m taken home.

I remember as a child, drawing trees with straight trunks and perfectly round leaf canopies. But a forest has no such perfection — its vibrancy comes from its idiosyncrasy, its sequence of death mingling with all stages of life.

It’s with this cycle of life that I share the following poem “The Snow Leaving”, which I wrote at the end of last winter in a video just filmed with this winter’s first snow.

Snow Leaving

softening, slowing, transforming, shrouding.

Lover pulls back cover, awakening
her beloved.

Earth’s rotation returns sun, lazily
returns earth. White dreams
give way to swarms of textures, multitudes
of renewal.

Soft breeze, gaining light, warmth.

Scents returning, earth exhaling.
Birds returning, enlivening air.

White opens to patches of earth, soon
to be islands.
Soon gone.

Weary grey
trees long for leaves’ return.

Fallen leaf carpet swims
into liquid sheets, gathering into brooks. Brooks learn river’s ways.
Whisper to roar. Gentle to emphatic.

Burrowed green remembers sun, gathers last essence before another cycle.

Snow flakes give way to snow drops.
Flattened ferns wait for sun resurrecting.
Growing snow rings at tree base

melted by returning sap. Trees that were buried bow.

Last taste of winter, melting crystals

For more poems read by Bill, please register for the Learning to Love a Forest Reading to be held December 2nd at 7:30pm EST on Zoom.


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