Perhaps Bear Canyon wanted to help.
A walk in the woods can be a wonderfully healing experience. I wonder if this is something the CDC should know.
When I set out on the trail to Bear Canyon yesterday morning with my friend, Elizabeth Robechek, I was a little preoccupied by an article I had seen in the newspaper. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that the suicide rate among white, middle-aged Americans (age 35 to 64) has climbed 28 percent over the last 10 years.
The fact that this sad article coincided with my hike in Bear Canyon was a coincidence. However, as I set out with Elizabeth and my camera (no dogs allowed), I knew I would link the two in a blog post and mentally made a request: Please show me an image I can use.
Who or what was I addressing? Perhaps I was speaking simply to my eyes, but Elizabeth would say differently.
Elizabeth is a master of landscape architecture but also a mystic who has been communing with the natural world since she was a child. The world of Bear Canyon has been a sanctuary for her for 13 years. In the trees, rocks, sun and shadow and in every inviting place to sit, listen, look and sense, the Canyon is inhabited by spirits as real to her as I am.
It is also inhabited by memories of times of snow and rain when water was running in the creek and when many trees now dead and fallen were robust. She pointed out the way in which pine, spruce, fir, and piñon seem to decide among themselves which will be given the space to endure.
She also shared teachings about time and eternity. For example, there was “the bone yard,” where branches were piled up like bodies near the foot of a massive, long-dead, but standing guardian tree. She also pointed out where a tree that had died within memory had decayed to the point of turning into new soil. And for the long view, there was a rock fall dating from the Ice Age.
In spite of the evidence of drought, the energy among “the standing people,” as the Native Americans refer to the trees, was very soothing. Elizabeth described the effect as of a “wood air bath.” And every now and then a little breeze would lift and the tree people would seem to tone.
With every step, I felt more energized and happy. The natural world seems to put your own life into perspective, and it is enormously grounding and comforting. I also learned long ago that whenever I have a challenge or an issue and ask for guidance, something will invariably appear that seems a comment, a clarification, or a suggestion. Perhaps the seeking mind is guided by the subconscious and searches for the symbol of wisdom already in hand. I don’t know; I’ve just experienced many striking synchronicities.
And as I walked, I thought about those people tracked by the CDC who had become so unbalanced that they simply chose to exit life. Someone once shared an insight regarding suicide that seemed to me very wise—that the soul’s evolution requires that we go the distance, no matter how difficult the terms of an existence. Until we do, we will incarnate again and again. According to that theory, there really is no escape.
The newspaper article speculated that part of the problem with middle-aged whites may be that we are becoming increasingly secular and are not as supported by a church community as blacks and Hispanics are. If so, we may also be more affected by the way we are all losing touch with the nurturing potential of nature. I mean, there is a reason why we call home Mother Earth.
I took many photographs on the trail, but none was exactly what I needed until we turned back. Above a deep ravine, a big rock rolling downward had collided with the trunk of a fir sapling. In spite of its own struggle to survive, the sapling was holding its ground, preventing the rock from shattering on boulders below.
The tension between the two seemed a comment on the theory that communion with nature could fortify a troubled mind. So in what moment had the rock rolling toward the ravine been rescued by the sapling? Are we talking months ago, weeks, or maybe just minutes earlier?
And is there, as Elizabeth believes, a communicating consciousness in the world along the trail? When you walk in the woods with the mind of a mystic, anything is possible. I needed an image that would help me make an important point. Perhaps Bear Canyon wanted to help.