I have come to the forest, the urban forest, today to find three things: a cool respite from the blistering heat, a quiet respite from the city noise, and a mental respite from the endless ~ and meaningless ~ mind chatter. Two out of three ain't bad. It's deliciously cool here in the fern dell forest. My mind has cooled, as well. The self-berating thoughts to which I had been subjecting myself seem wholly out place here in the forest. A grey squirrel scampers by, light as a feather, his feet barely touching down before he leaps onto the nearest tree and scurries out of sight. He frolicking allows no room for thoughts of "I should have" or "I failed...." I follow his lead and take delight in my surroundings.
Only the searing sound of the circular saw that a worker is using periodically disrupts my enjoyment of this otherwise perfect Respite. As jarring as the sound would be anywhere, it seems more piercing and painful here in the forest. Christy and I move to a table far away from it, and I drop into a deeper level of Ease...and Grace.
Hikers stride past purposefully, as if their very souls depend on this walk in the forest. Perhaps it does. How much of our serenity and well-being do we give up simply by closing ourselves off from the forest? We Americans spend nearly 90% of our time indoors, walling ourselves off from the larger Web of Life, our community of trees, squirrels, birds, stones, flowers and even the Sun. I wonder if this makes it easier for us to accept the desecration of our environment. What stuff would we buy if we sat outside the factory that made it and observed the smoke stacks and the downstream runoff?
The approaching sound of a staticky rap song blaring from a cheap player punctuates my reverie. Another urban dweller has brought the sounds of the city with him into the forest. I'm irritated. I glare. He is unperturbed. He saunters by slowly, offering not the slightest acknowledgment of my annoyance. He reminds me how fragile is the state of my stillness. Not one of my tree, squirrel, flower or bird companions has registered a complaint, though well they might chide us for bringing our noise, our trash and our strange smells into their home. Who am I to judge, then, when they do not? The music maker moves on. So do I.
Contemplating the furry bark of the redwoods before me, I wonder at their peaceful willingness to be in our company all, given our penchant for cutting them down to build our decks and lawn furniture. I sense no hostility in these lovely beings. Only a deep sense of Purpose and Place and Belonging, the very qualities that anchor me, as well. We share this. While this writer's group has met in a variety of lush and beautiful natural places around Los Angeles over the past few months, it always here that we return after our wanderings have led us away. This place in the forest has become our home base. It is our sacred Place, too. It is here, that we realize that we Belong here, we Belong to each other, we Belong to Earth.
I notice the time and realize I have but a few minutes of Respite remaining. I have another appointment to attend and children to pick up from school after that. Athough my time here seems all too short, I know I will take the forest with me. With this thought, it occurs to me how perfectly orchestrated my visit here today has been. The annoying sound of the saw drove Christy and me from our usual table to this one by the lovely redwoods, the ones who helped me realize my place and connect Belonging. The hikers, so intent on their journey, reminded me to walk with Purpose. The disruptive, blaring music caused me to contemplate what we carry with us ~ City into Forest and Forest into City. I am glad for my time in the forest. I pack it up, along with my tablet and keyboard, and head for the car. The forest Belongs with me as much as I Belong here.