Sunday, January 24, 2010
Parable of the Forest
Not far from our home is a small 35 hectare woodlot of white pine, sugar maple, beech and red oak trees. The canopy towers high above the forest floor and busy roads and an industrial park line its perimeter. It is easy to walk through the trails in half an hour which makes it perfect for a late afternoon stroll on these short winter days. These old trees have marked time for decades. Carved intials, dates and hearts are engraved in the smooth grey bark of the beeches but many are distorted as trees have grown and stretched the scars. Upright dead trees are full of woodpecker holes while others have fallen and are covered with mosses and fungi. The face of the burled tree above is obscured by leaves in the summer and fall, but greets me at the entrance to the trail in the winter.
I came here Friday after work, my mind replaying the day's events, some of which had been unpleasant. Change is coming again and staff stress is increasing with the uncertainty of inevitable restructuring in the coming weeks. Gossip is rampant and criticism of co-workers and management is heard throughout the day. I wanted to confront some people to tell them a thing or two and was practicing speeches in my head as I started my walk. The forest was completely silent. I didn't hear a bird or squirrel or footstep of another person. The wind was still, the sun was low in the sky and the moon was visible above the trees.
The angry words in my head slowly vanished and the stress of the day dissipated. I had hoped to find some birds and then didn't care if I found nothing but silence. I observed the effects of constant change and stress around me. Trees develop burls to enclose areas of trauma and infestation while they continue to grow upward and strong. The roots and tubers of spring's wildflowers wait in the cold and ice for their brief days of bloom and beauty before they prepare for another winter. Some trails are closed to allow nature to heal an area damaged by man or weather.
I have been reading A. J. Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically. The author is a secular Jew, an agnostic by his own label, who endeavored to obey the Bible as literally as possible for a full year. The book is "laugh out loud" funny but is never disrespectful or trivial. I could relate to his difficulties with the command, "Do not go about as a gossiper among your people..." (Leviticus 19:16). He made two observations. Keeping silent was the best way to avoid spewing biblically banned negative language, and the less he vocalized negative thoughts, the fewer negative thoughts were in his mind in the first place.
Tomorrow is Monday and the start of another work week. Change is inevitable and I must continue to grow and be positive in spite of circumstances which are beyond my control. And I must internalize the silence and peace of the forest and learn the lesson of the trees.