The forest was damp and cool. Light filtered through the branches of trees hundreds of years old. Shadows danced along the ground and among the ferns which covered the forest floor. It felt like I was in another world. As my eyes soaked it all in, awe overcame me. I became lost in joy.
Writing that paragraph takes me back just a few weeks to my recent trip through the redwood forests of California. I wish I could take you there.
Waking up every morning, and being enveloped in awe was healing. My heart, like yours, carries many scars. Scars that come from relationships, from my old faith, and from life. Soaking deeply in wonder healed so much pain for me.
To feel again
I spent years dead to my feelings. The pain, regret, and frustration were too much, so I shut down. I didn’t even know I had done it.
This happens to many of us. We become the zombie apocalypse as we move, without feeling, through the trials of life. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I used to cry a lot as a kid. I learned to cry less, and then not to cry at all. I couldn’t afford to feel.
Awe helped me cry again.
Now I use awe to find those feelings, to bring them up and let them out.
Even though I have always held a deep reverence for nature, it was only recently that I realized how disconnected we can become and how dangerous that is. I grew up in a home where food was purchased at the market, and meat always came ready to cook and eat. We didn’t hunt or forage for anything. This created an illusion in my head that my food came from somewhere else. This is a dangerous illusion. I knew, on an intellectual level, that my food was made of plants and animals. But emotionally I didn’t feel or see the connection.
This is a minor bump in the road in comparison to the disconnection many of us feel with life in general. We live in a world that is hyper connected electronically, but is naturally disconnected. People feel adrift and without purpose. People feel isolated and alone.
Have you ever wondered why people retire to the woods and become the hermits and recluses of legend?
I think, in part, it is to reconnect with their primal mother. To be in her embrace heals this disconnect. We begin to see ourselves as part of the web of life. We have a purpose and a role because of our place in the ecology of existence. Learning to see and feel this changes us and can help give us meaning and direction, something we all desperately need in today’s world.
I call her Mother
Gaia, Mother earth, Goddess. Her name is endless, and yet she nurtures me constantly. In our modern society we can become disconnected from the sacred mother. I have always held a deep reverence for nature. It’s something I get from my dad. But I haven’t always viewed her as Mother.
I’ve taken a great interest in how she provides for us, and mother is the best name I can come up with. She nourishes our bodies directly through the food she gives us. She shelters us and provides for our every need. From her we gain tools, weapons, homes, and every other advancement. Our medicine is her gift to us that we might heal ourselves.
It is no wonder to me that indigenous societies all around the globe have called her Mother. The awe that she provides for us I believe is a gift. This gift of connection, and purpose is here to open us to our better selves.
Seeing is believing
As a kid we used to run around and eat a plant known as wood sorrel. We called it sweet grass. It has a tart flower stem that is edible. That was my first foraged plant, but I didn’t realize that you could do that with other plants. Tomorrow, I’m taking my kids to go collect blackberries. Along the way I will point out the curly dock that is all dried up, and we will talk about the Tule grass growing on the riverside which can be used to make boats and baskets.
I do this because seeing is believing. I hope that my children will come to love Mother Earth as much as I do. My father has always had a deep reverence and awe for the natural world, and he passed that on to all his kids. I think that it may be one of the most important gifts he ever gave me. It has changed me.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have to agree with Ralph on this one. And I must say that the same is true about humankind. Are we not all judged to be weeds until we, or someone else, finds in us some virtue? This lesson has helped me to look at others and seek out their virtues and not to judge them as weeds, although many others do. Every individual, like all things in nature, provides good in the world. Sometimes we don’t see or understand that good, but I can guarantee it is there.
By seeing the lessons and the gifts of nature, I begin to reconnect to a system that is brimming with life and creativity.
I know that you’ve felt the loneliness that comes from our modern life. I believe that you can find peace. Begin by taking a few minutes in the evening to sit with nature. If you can, head away from the city lights and find some stars. Think about the immense distance that light has had to travel to reach your eyes here on earth. Lay down and look up at the array of starlight and let the awe come over you.
If that isn’t an option, go to a local part and rest up against a tree. Feel the bark with your hands, and think about all the tree has seen. Climb up in the limbs of these silent giants and remember what it was like to have wonder and awe. Study the bark and the leaves, or find the fruit or nuts of the tree, and just look at them. Why are they the shape they are? What reasons did Mother Earth have for making them this particular way? What is the tree trying to teach you?
Some of you may think that this all sounds a little hokey. That’s okay. I’m confident that if you give it an honest try, you will begin to feel differently. If you don’t, no worries. I wish you well nonetheless.
I hope that you all may find a little extra awe today. May it lift you up and may you use that to life others around you.
Love and peace,