God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!” —Joseph Campbell
… for me, even a fallen tree.
If looking at a tree can be a divine experience, or something transcendent, then what may be revealed or experienced when you spend a few days intimately connecting with every part of a big fallen tree and everything on the ground surrounding it, including clearing away many other trees that it fell on, changing it to a playground shaped from what had been a big obstacle fallen onto and blockading an important trail? What does that intimacy reveal?
The wind snapped off this big white pine at a point where its trunk had divided and where it became infected with a fungus common among white pines. This “stump” will die and become a tall snag that will stand potentially for decades, and be a great resource to wildlife.
View of the closed trail from the south side:
View from the north side:
The trail formerly passed through the middle of this. There are many smaller trees crushed under the big pine’s limbs and branches. One favorite was spared the crushing: a young hawthorn, the only one we have that has survived deer browse long enough to become more than a tiny shrub.
(There are 17 species of hawthorn in New York alone, so don’t be surprised if your experience looks different.)
I chose which parts of the big fallen pine to cut off and which to keep, based on whim and what the child in me wanted to do with it, what seemed most fun. Now that the sap has dried off, it’s a great thing to sit on and play on, even bounce on (the limbs are still flexible) in bare feet. I went home with pine pitch blotched soles and toes the day I finished “working” on this tree. (Hard to call it “work.”)
When nature clobbers a trail with a big tree, and I work with it instead of against it, the outcome is a better trail. Nature has contributed greatly to the styles and routes of trails here, and she loves change.
Cadivus is a Latin word meaning fallen or windfall, translated in the usual sense of “a sudden gain,” and in the sense of “fruit blown from a tree.” The wind gave me a windfall-deadfall where an abundance of new life began, forever shaped according to a merger of the tree and me. Nothing really died. It was transformed.
Nothing is born, nothing dies. —Antoine Lavosier, French scientist, often considered “the father of modern chemistry.”
There is no thing that becomes nothing, and there is nothing that becomes no thing. —Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear
The transformed site, having become Cadivus:
That place, as it exists now, is an expression of me. The tree drew me into combination with — immersion with — its nature. Now I am there forever.
Cadivus is on Whitetail Way, at the south end of Blueberry Pass, on the east side of Maplegate Square.
“Hey, whatever happened to that crazy old Balsamean guy?”
“Dunno. They say all they found was his clothes, tossed on a big fallen pine tree limb that he liked to bounce on with the kids, his socks and shoes flung here and there in the snow, the bare-footprints of animals and invisible children all around, all of them far too small for his big shoes, none at all nearly his size. I think he grew tiny feet and went wholly unsearchable.”
“Yeah, well,” the inquirer replied, “If you ask me, I think he went nuts.”
So Cadivus is not a “wild” place, if you count human influence as unwilding. It is a widened wild. Perhaps Natalie Goldberg would call it an expression of wild mind, or simply wild mind itself.
See her 1990 book, Wild Mind; Living the Writer’s Life. I don’t keep many books, but this one has sentimental value that has kept it on my shelf since 1995.
She wrote, nearly bringing me to tears as I look at it again now after so long since the last time:
… wild mind surrounds us. Western psychology calls wild mind the unconscious, but I think the unconscious is a limiting term. If it is true that we are all interpenetrated and interconnected, then wild mind includes mountains, rivers, Cadillacs, humidity, plains, emeralds, poverty, old streets in London, snow, and moon. A river and a tree are not unconscious. They are part of wild mind. I do not consider even a dream unconscious. A dream is a being that travels from wild mind into the dot/monkey mind/conscious self to wake us up.
So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours — your own wild mind.
I think what good psychotherapy does is help to bring you into wild mind, for you to learn to be comfortable there, rather than constantly grabbing a tidbit from wild mind and shoving it into the conscious mind, thereby trying to get control of it. This is what Zen, too, asks you to do: to sit down in the middle of your wild mind. This is all about a loss of control. This is what falling in love is, too: a loss of control.
Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It is the best way to write. To live, too. -pp. 32, 33.
You’re allowed to be wild when it’s just scribblements (like this one). Who knows how wild it may get!
Pondering wild mind, I’m reminded of the art of Lisa Brunetti, of Zeebra Designs & Destinations; An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest, … acutely-expressed wild mind, graphically in photos, paint and more, and in writing.
It seems to take a lifetime for me to discover unsearchable things I know exist within me. I learn only slowly to engage wild mind, so slowly that after all these decades, it no longer matters whether I “become a writer” (topic of Goldberg’s book).
The romance of that child-born writing notion has dissolved into these trees, into places such as Cadivus (windfall), Kieferhaven (kiefer is German for pine), Silviden (made up that name out of the air in my head), Aranyaka (Sanskrit: forest book), Tettegouche (Ojibwe “place of retreat”), Steinwald (rock woods), Turkeyfoot (the shape of a 3-path intersection), Cladonia (a lichen genus).
If you think I’m going to say Green Man (a forest trail working sprite) is “one with the tree,” think again. He’s one with Aranyani (ancient forest goddess) and having a great time with her, along with Selene and Endymion under her spell, Goddess of the Night Nyx, and the whole Balsamea gang coming and going all the time.