Die as I should

Often when I walk these woods I get awe-struck by the enormity of all these trees cradling me, nursing me in mind and body, opening themselves to me, entreating me to surrender ever more fully to their care.

Autumnal view of a big American beech (with splashes of maple and balsam fir)

I have no idea how many trees are in Balsamea, so I say ten thousand.  It’s probably a drastically low estimate, especially if you count all the little ones just getting started.  I also say I’ve walked these trails ten thousand times, but I know it is many more.  I just stopped estimating when it reached ten thousand.  It’s all too much for me, and never enough.

I am immersed in the virtually miraculous nature of this unbelievable gift in which I swim.  I did nothing to deserve it or earn it.

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Mushrooms of Balsamea

I shot most of these pix in 2009, a banner year for mushrooms.  The two with the blue coffee cup (does it have to be coffee?) are chaga mushroom harvested from one of our birch trees this summer.  Click the first picture to open the gallery and see the larger views.  There are 49 pictures.

The last one, “Reincarnation of a Birch” looks like some sort of abstract painting.  It is an actual photo of fungi growing on a birch stump at Taylor Pond in Black Brook, NY.  I remember exactly where it was.  Continue reading

Tap Into the Therapeutic Power of the Forest

So often on my daily trail saunters, I look at something in nature, anywhere from the sky to the stones and roots, and a simple, single sentence, or just a word or phrase occurs to me and it feels like the perfect fit for the experience, a way to describe or explain it without describing or explaining it, like a poet, I suppose, though I’ve never been a poet and don’t try to be one. I’ve tried writing them down, but the act of doing it seems to dissolve the experience into the ether, and the second I put pen to paper, the words often escape me, like trying to write down the content of a dream. It’s something like losing the true experience of something by focusing attention on taking a photo of it. I see it as a combination of forest nature and my sylvan nature that prompts these moments of unbidden mindfulness. Why should it matter that I write them down or record them or send them to somebody? It doesn’t, and I’m not sure it does me any good to try, distracting myself from the experience. Still, Dr. Ellison’s 30-minute-sit challenge feels like a push from within to let those words get said beyond my little head, along with a profusion of these experiences lately. I’m going to give it a shot, writing down some of them. I’m out there at least 30 minutes every day anyway. Join me in the challenge.

Hiking Research®

By Mark Ellison, Ed.D.

What do you do that gives you energy, that fuels your ability to work and play? Do you have anything? Do you escape from the stress of life to allow your mind, body and spirit to heal?

There are so many benefits to our health from spending time in nature, particularly forests. Research has found that spending time in forests can increase attention capacity and creativity, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and improve mood.

44693726_10216885191942854_1445662352333602816_n Sunset from the Waterrock Knob Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway (NC)

Are you tapping into the power of the forest as part of your plan to improve your health? It is a key ingredient that could take your health to the next level. It is the multiplier. If you are walking, biking, relaxing in an urban environment, then  you are getting health benefits. If you do the same in…

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Aranyaka – Part 2

Aranyaka Part 1 ended with a description of the Hindu goddess Aranyani in Rigveda Book 10 Hymn 146 and my personal look at it.  Here is another interpretation, by a qualified authority:

David Kinsley, author of Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, wrote:

One hymn of the Rg-veda (10.146) refers to a goddess of the forest, Aranyani.  From this one hymn we get a rather clear picture of the goddess.  She is an elusive figure who vanishes from sight and avoids villages.  She is more often heard than seen.  She speaks through the sounds of the forest, or one may even hear her tinkling bells.  She seems to make her presence known especially at evening, and those who spend the night in the forest sometimes think they hear her scream.  She never kills unless provoked by some murderous enemy.  She is sweetly scented, is mother of all forest things, and provides plenty of food without tilling.

To develop a special relationship with her, create trails!  She has a lot to say about how you do that, and she loves to change them for you.

In Part 1, I said that Aranyani is incarnate as forest; forest is the embodiment of Aranyani.  Maybe this is why she is so seldom depicted in human form by classical artists, unlike so many other deities.

Aranyani, The Hindu Goddess Of Forests by Bijan Pirnia, photo in the San Isabel National Forest, Colorado. Click for the larger source image at Fine Art America.

I was happily surprised to find this work by photographer Bijan Pirnia titled Aranyani, The Hindu Goddess Of Forests, with no anthropomorphic entity in it (that I can find).  It is just forest, the embodiment of Aranyani!

Enjoy browsing terrific forest photos by Bijan Pirnia.  Thank you, Bijan.

Back to making trails with Aranyani …

The following are not pretty pictures, just documentary, to show you one part of the Aranyaka Maze of paths, each a unique experience.  I’m starting with the path into Aranyaka Sanctuary from the west.

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Aranyaka – Part 1

George Gordon Byron

~

“The end of all scribblement is to amuse,
and he certainly succeeds there.”
–Lord Byron, Referring to Sir Walter Scott in a letter to Francis Hodgson, 1810

… even if I’m the only one amused
As I say, I blog for my entertainment.

~

In my Cadivus post, I quoted Natalie Goldberg’s book Wild Mind, where she advised writers to “sink into the big sky and write from there.”  (PDF of the full excerpt.)  In my layman’s rough terms, “big sky” refers to widened awareness and/or a Buddhistic meditation practice called “big sky mind.”

In context, I believe Goldberg is talking about unleashing oneself from the limitations of overly self-critical, self-confining, ego-based/fear-driven, creativity-stifling thinking.  It may also be distorted thinking that is out of harmony with things as they are.

Like me, for instance (to a degree).

Note the subtitle of this blog, Scribblements from Balsamea.  Maybe I should have called it Scribblements of Balsamea, referring not only to these words and pictures, but also to writing myself into Nature here, and herself into my little mind-body machine.  Cadivus is the latest significant example of that reciprocal, wordless writing process.  I’d like to talk about one of the early examples, a place in Balsamea that I named Aranyaka in 2006.

NATURE DOODLE at Aranyaka, 9/24/2007. Click to enlarge.

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Cadivus

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.

Click to enlarge

View of the closed trail from the south side:

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There’s Only One Nature – Joan D. Chittister, OSB

From Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B.:

Joan D. Chittister

It’s what we have when we have nothing that defines our relation to nature and the effect of nature on the soul. Then we begin to realize that we do not exist outside of nature or above nature or independent of nature; we are simply its most vulnerable part. What we learn from nature may make the whole difference in the way we go through life, and what we want from it, and what we consider important in it, and—most of all—what we are capable of learning by being alive.  —from Becoming Fully Human by Joan Chittister (Sheed & Ward)

     

(Click pics for full-screen views.)  Views looking up under American Beech trees, abundant at Balsamea, fascinating in every season.  See my post, The Junk Tree (Fagus grandifolia) for many more home-made pictures and discussion.  Some foolish person called it a junk tree, not me.  I’m not THAT foolish.

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“What we learn from nature may make the whole difference in
… what we are capable of learning by being alive.” –JDC

Snow Falling from Trees Awakens

560 words, 18-sec. video, 2 photos

After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing.  Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.

Click pix for full size images

It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground.  They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.

When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too?  When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays?  It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears.  Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing.  Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders.
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Oak Tree Trilogy Part 3 – Buddy’s Oak and Dad’s Question

A Balsamean of the bug tribe

A Balsamean of the bug tribe

Trees get so much attention in this drifting journal, The Balsamean, because they are easier to write about than people are, and trees often make better friends than most people do, and the tree fairies would sprout leaves green with envy in the middle of winter if I gave as much time to humanity as to them.

This is another long post, about 3,000 words, but it has lots of pictures, one of my favorite poems (a famous classic), and a piece of original art by The Balsamean.

It took a year to write this.  It’s not that I took a year to start it.  I worked on it dozens of times beginning last September.  The earlier versions were close to 6,000 words, and told too many stories that deserve articles of their own.

If not for too many long sentences, this would be an easy read.  But my readers are sharp.  And it’s especially readable if you just take a seat, slow down and act like the world moves at the speed it should, not the one it does.

Don’t read it in a hurry.  It took a year to get here.
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Fall Favorite Fifty at Five Hundred

Here are 50 of my favorite autumn color photos taken at Balsamea, at 500 pixels wide (or tall). If you’ve followed this blog a long time, you’ve seen these before. However, most of them managed to disappear from the blog, so, for the record, here they are again.

Click on a picture to open its own page where you can post comments on it.

OR, click any of the pictures in the series (after this first one) to switch to gallery/carousel mode where you can step through them like a slide show and comment right there on any picture.  They look nicer there because they are not bunched up so tightly as seen here.

Or just say stuff in the comments box at the bottom of this post, if you ever get there.  Or email me for all those delish things you always love saying to me privately.

Fall Color-33-20120928 fall color 22-500px

The Balsamaple Tree

Any questions?  Please post them!

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