On a sunny Sunday morning, my husband and I skinned up the Sugar Bowls in Aspen and the revelations came one after the other about how nature can heal if one allows their mind to stay quiet in order to absorb her stories.
Quietly Observing Nature
If one is out in nature, quietly observing, stories unfold about the surrounding landscape and the animals within it, and one feels a deep connection. As our skis slid through the snow, I noticed that at every step there were one or two Aspen trees that looked charred and I wondered why it was only a few at a time, imagining a fire licking through the forest, selectively lighting up only one species of tree. I began to question my theory. Maybe the trees had all died of old age or disease, but that did not explain the charring or the stumped tops on all of them. As I looked deeper I noticed the eyes of the trees more deeply, seeing that there were branches emerging from some of the eyes but not all of them. Why? Why was the question that kept forming, with answers emerging that I had no idea from where. I followed the path of the dead trees to the very top, all along wondering if I would discover the answer to the story unraveling, and as I reached the last hump and the views of the mountains on the other side emerged, there it was, one large solo Aspen tree silhouetted against the bright sun, its branches jutting out obtrusively devoid of any life, its trunk charred and stripped of bark. Was this my answer to the story? Did that tree get struck by lightning and start a fire? I couldn’t be sure, but it sure felt like it.
As aspen trees grow, their top branches get the most light. Their branches need light to survive, and as they grow taller the lower branches get less light and begin to die and fall off. These branches that fall off create the “eyes” that you see on aspen trees.
Another time, I was mountain biking solo in the woods when I stopped to check the time. As I stooped down to get my phone out of my pack I heard a squirrel rustling through the leaves, chattering loudly. I assumed it was warning the others of my presence, and watched as it made it to its destination, me, and scurried up the tree directly at my feet. He froze directly in front of me and I saw that he was carrying a pine cone in his mouth. Realizing his plan to get rid of me by dropping it on my head, eye to eye we looked at each other and I broke out in laughter, daring him to drop it on me. He decided otherwise, turned his head to the side, spit out the pine cone, and ran down the tree and back into the forest. This shit happens to me all the time, and probably to you too, but do you notice, or are you too caught up in your thoughts that you miss it entirely?
As the story unraveled while we were skinning, other stories were revealed and I began to collect the information for a possible future children’s book; the snow crystals sparkling like diamonds in the sun, the white ice crystals of hoarfrost layered upon the snow, and as I absorbed the textures with my eyes, I realized that I also felt the textures from within and it was inexplicably soothing.
We have been forced to slow down during this Pandemic, allowing us the opportunity to reflect deeply about our place in the world. For many of us revelations are happening daily, but if we are filled with anxiety, or can’t move beyond our depression, we will not allow the revelations to seep in and we will miss the magic. Meditation helps immensely to create mindfulness about the chatter that leads to the anxiety, as does listening to the journeys of others as they get raw in their pain while enduring heart break and loss. As we repeatedly witness, the world can be a scary place where humanity can be careless, selfish and hateful, but humanity and compassion can also heal us to a place where we are able to see the world as healing rather than a place we want to escape from, but you need to get raw with it. Face it head on, so that you can create space and breathe, which will allow you to slowly shed the anxiety and the depression so that you can strengthen from within and persevere, no matter what is going on around you. Get outside in nature, and nurture it as it nurtures you.