Whispers From the Trees: The Forests of My Home

whispers from the trees Apr 23, 2024

By Penny Reed

The winds of change descended upon me, and I found myself staying with my parents as I helped my mother recover from major surgery.

It was clear that my ageing parents needed more assistance than previously thought. What was intended to be a several-day visit grew into a much longer stay. I initially noticed frustration and whispers of annoyance bubbling up inside me as I put my life on pause to tend to their needs. I held space for these feelings as old plans evaporated and new routines blossomed. I noticed that it felt so good to be able to help them after so many years of them helping me.

What a gift to nurture the nurturer.

As my mother gradually improved, I started to explore the beautiful neighbourhood they live in. Their condo complex is surrounded by forests which connect to the greenbelt. Huge flocks of migrating birds regularly stopped for rest and nourishment (most residents in their community have well-tended bird feeders). I quickly grew fond of the meandering forest-like paths, the friendly neighbours, the resident fox, and a magnificent Pileated Woodpecker that would routinely join me on my strolls. His deep drumming became a restorative soundtrack for my soul.

Not far from where my parents currently live is the house of my youth and the first place I lived in Ottawa. One sunny day while following my woodpecker friend, I found myself in front of that house and could feel the gentle pull from the forests that live nearby.

Like stepping through a portal in time, my feet remembered the secret ways to the woods.

Turns and twists, rocks and roots, overgrown and changed but woven with familiarity and sameness. The forest opened up before me like a living photo album of memories. I could see younger versions of myself playing with my brother and our friends. Rivers of memories flooded my mind: long dog walks, fast bike rides and secret campouts. Woodpecker’s heartbeat drumming provided a shamanic dreamscape element that allowed hidden memories to surface and dance in the sunlight of remembering.

I came upon a small clearing with a large rock that housed a variety of mosses and lichen. I felt drawn like a moth to a flame, and as I touched it, tears rolled down my cheeks - memories of heartbreak, teenage confusion and loneliness cascaded through my body.

I remember this place - my wailing rock.

Even as a young person, I always felt so held by the forests. I allowed myself to cry. Grief doesn’t fit into neat little boxes. It doesn’t listen to logic or reason. Grief has its unique path, and all it requires from us is to be witnessed and loved. I felt a deep love building inside of me for this forgotten sanctuary. Reciprocity is when both parties mutually benefit from the relationship. I often wonder what these beautiful forest beings receive from me. I attempt to show them my gratitude with offerings and songs. I tell them with words and show them with actions how much I honour them. But still, I wonder if it is enough… Just then Raven’s rich Gaww, Gaww rang out. 

I continued along the trail, and I found myself at the base of a very tall white pine whose stumpy mostly broken lower branches made a perfect ladder. I looked up, and high in the tree tops were the remnants of our old tree fort which currently was more like a sketchy platform at best. Compelled to climb again, I tested my body on the first branch - it held. I proceeded to steadily ascent. Not even halfway up nausea washed over me, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply as I clung tightly to the truck of the tree. I laughed as I thought 'this is most likely why you don’t see too many middle-aged humans up in trees'. Like swings and roller-coasters, something happens as you age -  instead of thrills you get a good dose of queasiness. As the uneasiness passed, I noticed the wind and the warmth of its touch. The sweet smell of pine filled my nostrils. Woodpecker's drumming returned me home.

I heard the Trees whisper, “You are enough.”

As these words travelled through me, I noticed pockets of tension releasing in my body. I could feel a quiet calm awakening. I slowly made my way down the tree. With both feet firmly back on the ground, I wrapped my arms around its enormous trunk and thanked them for everything they have been to me. The wind picked up, and it felt like they were hugging me back when I heard another whisper,

“Change is Always, Life is Change, Love is Constant, You are Love.”

A whisper that felt like a complete orchestra, like all sounds converging at once, the very origin of Ohm. 

Woodpecker’s drumming guided me to Nature’s heartbeat and remembering our bond with Earth Mother and the continuous energy that flows through all living things. Moving through natural cycles and the courage and strength to surrender to those cycles. The richness that comes from being an active participant in the cycles around you is the gift.

Whether it's caring for loved ones, caring for yourself, celebrating the return of the birds, gathering to witness celestial alignments, witnessing grief or holding space, being present - being you is all it takes.

Earth Mother, like the wailing rock, holds no judgment, only space, and honours our journey. I took a deep breath and consciously chose to hold that same space for myself and others as we navigate the winds of change, the rivers of memories, and continuous cycles that push and pull us like the ebb and flow of the tides. What if we are enough? What if love is enough? What does it feel like when we stop resisting change? What does it look like when we support those we love through difficult times? What does it look like when we support ourselves through difficult times?

Walking With You,

Penny hosts forest walks, Human Design readings and a Sacred Herbs Series. Check out her offerings on our website.

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