Earlier this month, my 2-year old son, Orion and I went on one of our Mommy and Orion adventures to our Tolt River. We played with samara seeds, big leaf maple leaves and cottonwood leaves, throwing them into the flowing waters and watching our “boats” float away with delight. We also looked for salmon – many have died, having completed their long, beautiful life journey back to their birthing waters, and a few were still swimming and jumping in the water. We gathered rocks and sticks, making a pile….just to make a pile of rocks and sticks.
As we started on the trail home to get back for lunch and nap time, that’s when I started to hear the horrible sounds….
Two weeks prior, I had been on a hike with my friend Julius, excited to take him up to this “new” Enchanted Forest I had discovered in the North ridge of Tolt MacDonald Park last fall. I led him up the small “secret” foot trail that takes us right to the edge of this forest. Yet as we climbed, something disturbing happened.
Through the trees and ferns I saw light….lots of light and sky. But…..how was that possible? There were supposed to be trees there. Dread filled my body and heart as I started to realize what had happened.
We popped out of our “secret trail” onto the main trail only to find this forest gone. There was no forest on the other side of the trail. To the right of the water tower the Enchanted Forest still stood, but to the left….there was nothing. All I could see was severed life for a vast expanse. All these trees cut. The forest gone – only ravaged, bare, torn apart ground, broken tree limbs and debris piles of what remained of this beautiful forest.
This was devastating. And I felt both rage and grief fill my body. Forests are sacred, and quiet places of refuge, home to so many animals, birds, insects, fungi….and, forests are the breath and lungs of our beloved Earth. Why? Why do people cut them down?!!! This devastation led to many phone calls to see what was happening and why, as well as now having our family signed up and involved in local tree planting and restoration projects with the Snoqualmie Tribe on a regular basis.
While my heart is still raw from this carnage, what I hadn’t expected was there to be more….so soon.
That day after playing with Orion at the river, on the way back home, I started to hear the chain saws. Not one, but many. With dread I heard their angry roar. While they were up on a ridge top across the valley and on the other side of the Snoqualmie River, I could hear the horrible sounds.
And then, I heard the worst sound.
One by one, I heard the trees fall. The thud echoed across the valley, into my ears, into my heart, into my bones.
The immediate grief I felt was overwhelming. “Why is this happening?!” I cried inside. “Isn’t anyone else hearing them fall? My trees! Our TREES! They are sacred. They are the giver of so much LIFE! No, don’t cut our trees! They must stay in the ground. Killing and cutting trees only cuts and kills ourselves.”
Another thud. Another giant tree down.
Orion was on my back and not sure what was happening, yet he could hear his Mama start to cry. He said, “Mama cry? Mama cry?” I told him I was crying for the trees being cut and that I was going to do something about it.
Again, the intensity, the urgency was overwhelming. I called as many people as I could. Searching numbers for people in King County Parks Department, permitting department, natural land use, etc. telling them what was happening, wanting desperately to stop the carnage, the destructions, the rape and pillage of our Earth, of what is sacred and beautiful, and to protect our Trees, the Givers of so much Life!!!
I talked to a few people, left lots of messages but didn’t yet have answers. My husband Nate called the media and also made some calls to the county. It looked like it may be private land, but didn’t they go past the park boundaries? And even so, how is it okay to destroy so much life even if you ”own” the land?!!
The next day during Orion’s nap, I had some time to myself. I usually use this time to go outside, do qigong, wander in nature to replenish, restore, and rejuvenate my wellspring of wellbeing.
Yet, this day, I knew what I needed to do.
I hopped on my bike and headed for the Snoqualmie River. Once there, I parked my bike under the bridge, walked across the river, and passed the people having picnics, family reunions and families coming to camp. I headed straight for a hidden trail I know so well, one that takes me up to the top of the southern ridge. I hiked up and up through the trees towards the lookout. This is a lookout where I can see over the valley, and it is in these forests, I’ve encountered great horned owls, barred owls, red tailed hawks and bald eagles. The view in one direction is amazing. Yet just over the ridge in the other direction is the evident destruction of a clear cut that happen 7-10 years ago. I usually don’t go on this old clear-cut site, but today I hiked right in, determined to find the killing site of the day before.
On the way up to the ridge, I had started crying. Again, through the trees, through the forest I know so well, I saw gaps of light, of brown and torn branches, stumps, where there should have been beautiful forest! I did not hold back my tears and wails. I wanted the land to know I cared and I care.
On the way into the forest, I had seen a raven calling and crying over the clear-cut site. Once in the forest, climbing up and crying myself, I heard Raven again. Then another Raven. And, then another.
Three Ravens came, calling, crying. As I cried, they cried. As I climbed, they circled closer to my footpath up the ridge side. Together we headed to the carnage. Together we cried.
I felt it was important to shed tears, bare witness and give love to this land, this forest that once stood peacefully and beautifully. And as I arrived, I found most of these tress still lay in their landing spots. Beautiful huge cottonwoods and big leaf maple trees, down. Their golden leaves still blowing in the wind as their trunks lay still on the ground. Many, many firs also lay silent on the once forest floor. The sword ferns were still green and vibrant, yet confused, not knowing where its forest home had gone.
My hike up to the ridge had also been disorienting because usually where there is forest canopy, instead there was light and glimpses of ravaged landscape. Here was yet another act of insanity that diminishes habitat and wildness for all of us.
When forest is cut, I too am cut. I felt the bareness of the land inside; I feel it in my being and bones. When forests are ravaged, the wildness and expanse in my being is also ravaged. I feel the loss of these trees, the grief of lost homes for birds, bears, insects, deer, cougar. I feel the grief of the lost joy that growing, living, vibrant landscape naturally exude. I go to the forest for inspiration, peace for joy. And here, it’s gone.
But Why? Why is it gone? Again, why do people cut trees? Do they not know they are cutting themselves? Destroying their own inner landscapes, their own wildness, defiling their own Mother?
In another blog I speak of being breathed by a forest, and feeling the breathing forest floor, everything interconnected. Yet, taking down the trees, takes the breath away. It turns these magical places into barren, broken landscapes. I feel it in my own being. I don’t understand the insanity of tearing apart our Earth. It’s tearing apart ourselves.
I cried and cried and cried, shedding tears to share my love, my grief and sorrow, apology, and more love on and with this land.
I then walked back in silence through the torn landscape and again down from the ridge top and across the river.
As I did, something happened.
Through my deep grief, another layer of wholeness surfaced.
A Mantra began in my heart, beat through my being, and breathed into the cells of my flesh and bones.
I am Earth.
I Am Earth.
I AM EARTH.
When asking what can I do? How can I help?
I Am Earth.
I Am Earth.
I AM EARTH.
Something deep, strong, resilient, massive started to awaken and stir within me. A wholeness, an invisible web of connection becoming ever more palpable, accessible, tangible and potent. A new kind of breath breathed in and through me. That of our whole awesome, massive, loving, incredible Earth.
I realized that witnessing, grieving, letting our heart be open and our tears fall is so important. Grieving connects me, reminds me, awakens me to my connection to life, to Earth.
I Am Earth.
Through these words, I feel life breathe into me, into the soil of the clear-cut, ravaged places and the still standing and thriving forests. This beautiful, breathing, living, pulsing, and wondrous Earth. And I walk with deepening gratitude, humility, service, honor and commitment to our beloved home, our beloved Earth Mother, home to our Trees, those cut and still standing, home to all the land and waters that birth life and home to something much greater than me yet of which I am intricately and wholly a part of.
I Am Earth.
I Am Planting Trees.