Tree Hugging Dirt Worshipper

Yesterday, Jeff and I were going in circles. The same conversational circles we always find ourselves wandering whenever we start to talk about the future. About Where to Live. When. How. There are so many constraints on our decision making process. Not the least of which is that I feel utterly lost when it comes to choosing a new town or area. It’s not that I don’t know what I want. That is actually the problem. I know (and so do you if you have been reading for a while) as deep as my bones where it is I want to be, where I feel drawn. And it’s not the Bay Area, and right now, our circle of choice doesn’t extend more than an hour outside of San Francisco.

As I bumped up against that same wall, with tears and frustration, I looked out our bedroom window. Just in time to see the arrival.

All dizzying path wandering stopped. We all froze and Fern yelled, “Hawk!”

We have been watching this friend for two years, and just last week Jeff watched it pick apart a pigeon for breakfast. But never has it come so close.

We drew close to the window, and it peered in at us, cocking its head this way and that. Satisfied that we had gotten a good look, it continued on its way.

My love of nature has nothing to do with abstraction, with projecting my own values onto a blank screen of rock, tree and flesh. This love comes from conversation. And from reciprocity. Of seeing, and of being seen. Of listening, and of being listened to. Jung called it synchronicity. And it can be experienced nearly anywhere, since wilderness, like a city, is an area teeming with entities.

Paul Stamets loves to talk about “Nature’s First Internet”. The Mychorrizal webs of fungi that weave and support and bring nutrients to the roots of all plant beings under the soil. When we walk in a forest, the mycelium springs up under our feet, looking to grab any debris we leave behind. Walking a mindful path takes on a new meaning.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a scientist and animist extraordinaire speaks of praying in gaelic, only to open her eyes and discover that the trees are leaning towards her, sympatico. (Thanks, Veronica!!)

Trees in the city are essentially “lonely”, as they are cut off from the fungal web that normally would connect them. I can relate.

Recently, amongst despair and rage and activism, I have also been feeling bereft. Exhausted and depleted. When The Crusades were happening, I wonder if the Christian hearts ever stopped in reckoning at the disconnect between going to war and the soft openness they felt in contemplation of Christ? It doesn’t make much sense to go to bat for saving our Earth, only to turn away from that gentle conversation that leads me to my own redemption. Eyes downturned have forgotten to look at the skies. So the sky decided to come to me. Nature misses us too.


Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times

~Mary Oliver



21 thoughts on “Tree Hugging Dirt Worshipper

    1. it was looking at us! at one point, it really leaned in and peered at us…i was too awestruck and forgot to take a picture. i look forward to the day you and i get to geek out about dirt and interconnectedness. xoxo

      1. ah. yes. at you. go within dear child. just look at the good old deep within and you will see. of course. and then of course we want more. tell us more!!!!! and dit~TO on that looking forward to that someday.

  1. I’m sure you already know this, but hawk represents seeing the bigger picture, the broad view of things. Great post. Great pictures!

    1. yes! that is one interpretation i appreciate, jamie sams talks about that. this year hawk has come to mean something else for me, myriad, deep and a little harder to describe. xo

  2. beautiful.
    oh, i love hawks. it is so awesome (in the true sense of the word) to have a moment like that with one.
    we live in a relatively urban setting, yet close enough to a river that we have many critters around. encounters with these non-human neighbors bring me delight, and ease my troubles when i find myself wanting to chuck it all and run for some off-the-grid corner of the world.
    though there are places (or perhaps one particular place) that would make me especially happy to dwell, my feathered and furry neighbors remind me how resilient all creatures can be…and–not that we shouldn’t go in the direction of our bliss– how one can be complete and free no matter where they live, so long as they are in the moment.
    [hopefully that all makes sense…just got home from long parent meeting at school and mind is mushy, though somehow open and inspired as well 🙂 ]

    1. yes! it makes perfect sense, mush brain or not. 😉

      you have said it so perfectly…”one can be complete and free no matter where they live, so long as they are in the moment.”. this is exactly the gift that living in the the city has offered, the ribbon on top being the encounters with wild ones. and similarly for me, it is these small interactions that sustain when i get so homesick for the country i think i can’t stand it one more minute.

      do you live near the sacramento river?

      1. The American River lies a couple blocks from our hous, just past a railroad track. At our closest access point, the river is wooded, wide and slow, and always entices me to grab a raft and float down Huck Finn-style. Ah, sometimes it is hard to be the mom who must get the kids to school (wearing shoes and brushed hair) and always remember to mind the rapids that lay a relatively small distance away 🙂

      2. aah, i have only visited the amer. river twice, but fell in love with her very quickly. tell you what, i will hold a vision of you, to see whenever i think of you…that regardless of coifed hair and appropriate attire and responsibilities…in your shadow there will be a reflection of all of you, with your pants rolled up, straw in your hair, and nothing to do but converse with the water.

  3. Oh Mary, I can pretty much count on the fact that every time I read one of your wonderful posts, I will have either my mind a bit blown or my heart blown wide open. Often both! Usually to the point of speechlessness. So I end up thinking that something to say will come to me later, something powerful or thoughtful enough to merit adding to your own words of thoughtful wisdom. Then I end up not commenting at all for way too long and I know this is silly, ah well, just know that I think you are really somethin’ lady, and I appreciate what you do here and the openness with which you do it… thank you 🙂

    As for this particular post, I found that TED clip SO FASCINATING, thank you for sharing! Also, before I was a mama, I was a scientist and my area of expertise was molecular biology (I worked directly with DNA) and it WAS the “divinity” of science that drew me to it. Diana Beresford-Kroeger
    is a woman after my own heart, thanks so much for the introduction, I really want to read The Global Forest now. *Sigh* if only the scientific community wasn‘t so widely influenced by “the church of the holy dollar” I might be more excited about the prospect of going back to work. Though I think my new scientific dream job now involves saving the world with mycelium!

    1. missa missa! you are so lovely….and i completely relate…so often i feel deeply moved by your posts, wrapped in images and vision, and then i try to comment and to me it seems to come out like “aggle flaggell blippety blopp”. i usually just trust that despite insufficient words, that the meaning gets across. i’m always just so happy to know you have stopped by to visit, and the warmth in your words is far more apparent than i think you know.

      and I AM excited by the idea of you bringing your lyricism and science to the question of saving the world with fungi….that right there is enough to bring hope back!

  4. So deeply you connect with your reader, with me here in my armchair in Ireland, a million miles away and right there, with you, a hawk, a forest, a child, city full with life. Thank you for your wise ways Mary, I feel so glad having discovered this blog.

    Mary Oliver has been by my side too this week……..
    Thank you for posting this poem, I have not ever seen it.

    So many opportunities for connection we have………. You are completely supported, if it is not too bold of me to say, not knowing the many details of your decision to move….. But I know indeed you are.
    My friend Annes’ grandmother used to say ‘good luck, bad luck’, that within everything is a gem. Your generous nature abounds in your blog and I can quite imagine a magical move for you, and your decisions will be made when they are made, and no sooner. The mystery will unfold itself just right.
    Wishing you all that you dream of!!!! x E

    I am so enjoying the thoughts of the bio regional swap. Thanks again for facilitating so much fun and opportunities to share and give.

    1. elizabeth, your reminding words pulled me back on the path, as i was starting to wander in barren and unforgiving places. yes, trust in timing that is not my own, trust the mystery, trust the invisible support, trust the love that shines from all the voices here. love.

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