Robbie and another child stooped down. “Ewww, yuck!” A banana slug, grey greenish yellow, slimed its way across the forest floor next to a shallow crater by the trail. An animal had been there recently, digging and revealing the subfloor of the forest and its dense dark nutrients.
The swinging bridge appeared before us. “Mom, let’s go!” We crossed over the river, the waters lower now at the end of the summer, the bridge height not so daunting as we swayed and bobbed up and down on the wooden slats. Robbie paused to jump up and down, testing the metal cables, a bit disconcerting for the adults.
Continuing on we came to a nest of roots, the center tree hollowed, hallowed ground. We paused and wondered at the dark space inside…Robbie asked, “Mom, can we sit in the tree?” Sitting in the dark space, we watched a chipmunk scurry by. A spider dropped and scuttled away. A fellow traveler offered to take our picture.
The trees got larger and larger, a similar majesty to the Sequoia’s and Redwoods. A deep silence prevailed.
“Trees don’t talk”, my scientist uncle said to me this summer. I wondered if he had ever stood amongst this glory and fully took them in.
Even in silence, much is said. For it is in silence we hear wisdom: the wisdom of our inner being and the larger force that governs and animates us all. Love exists here, not the impermanent love of human relationships, but the permanent, inexhaustible, infinite presence of divine love that is available to everyone. Redemption and salvation.
We continued on to the center of the grove. A man and his family stood next to us, “I wonder how many people it takes to hug this tree?” There were 5 of us total, not enough. Another man approached, I asked for them to join us. The man demurred, “Ain’t no tree hugger.” His wife and I said in unison, “for the children”. We all joined hands and hugged the tree, 9 total, sacred number. There was the deepest of pause, all were silent.
Then the peel of laughter of the kids. A raven cawed. Hands dropped to our sides.
We continued on, grateful.