I don’t know where we’re going
But if the going gets rough
We’ve got Eachother
And for now, that’s enough
Do we ever truly know where we’re going? We plot and plan, but … sh*t happens, huh? Unprecedented sh*t. That word – unprecedented – came up so much in the last year, it lost its shine, its wow factor. In 2020? Unprecedented sh*t has been happening all the time!
The above lyrics are the chorus of an evocative song written by Grace Potter in the early days of the pandemic. “We may not all be affected in the same ways,” says Potter, “but we are all going through this pandemic as a human race. It is incredibly humbling. It’s invited me to really take account of the things that matter most, which aren’t things at all … they’re people.”
Good gratitudinal words to usher in this unprecedented Holiday Season, yes? It’s not the stuff, the things, it’s never been the things. It’s the people! It’s always been the people that mattered most. And our people circles keep getting smaller. There are people, loved ones, that we long to see, but it’s either been mandated (or will be) that we not see them, or they live too far away, the travel is too challenging. So we visit on Zoom – at least we have the technology! – and imagine our eyes locking again, the feel of our hug, hearts touching hearts, beating together as one. Ah.
And while we are all affected in different ways by this pandemic, as Potter notes, did you not have a moment early on in the year, a realization, of both the fragility and the sheer awesomeness of being one of billions of people on the planet coming to terms with this common threat? A deep understanding of spiritual connectedness at a time when physical connectedness suddenly posed such grave danger?
We do have Eachother, from six feet apart with masks on and often plexi-glass between us and the cleanest, rawest hands that cannot shake. Humbling indeed.
Tis a good time, perhaps, to go for a walk in the deep dark woods and think about how trees, stationary and seemingly mute, stay connected. I listened to a fabulous podcast the other day, from The Daily, about “The Social Life of Forests”. Canadian researcher Suzanne Simard, has spent almost three decades studying old growth forests, and, as Ferris Jabr writes, “By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species.”
Her findings blast holes in Charles Darwin’s emphasis on the individual, the notion that survival of a species is inherently competitive. Simard’s doctoral thesis proves how Douglas fir help out paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Just knowing that makes me want to be way more community-minded and way less focused on me.
Also? Have you ever spun it, considered what trees think of you and your presence in their deep dark woods? Simard points out how trees sense plants and animals that are nearby and alter their behaviour accordingly, so why not when humans are tromping around under them? Writes Jabr, “The gnashing of mandibles of an insect might prompt the production of chemical defenses, for example. Some studies have even suggested that plant roots grow toward the sound of running water and that certain flowering plants sweeten their nectar when they detect a bee’s wing beats.”
Wow. Mind blown. We are connected, not only to Eachother, but to every living thing on the planet. Much gratitude, much respect. An aha moment and, for me anyway, an easing, a lifting of the weight of individuality and a relaxing into all that is.
Western culture raises us up to be competitive, individualistic. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, right? It’s also friggin exhausting. Instead of trying to explain my place in the world, my purpose, I’ve decided “I’m just a girl raised by trees”. It’s so very freeing! In the last blog Rights and Responsibility, I mentioned the book Braiding Sweetgrass, how the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, shares an indigenous view of people and their place among the various species of the world. It’s a kinder, gentler worldview, with generous doses of gratitude and reciprocity.
Kimmerer talks about meeting a man who described himself thus: “I’m just a boy raised by a river”. Did he grow up beside a river? Did the river raise him? I suspect a dollop of both.
Me? I grew up in the Forest City, with trees all around and a huge appreciation of forest walks. When I’ve been down, trees have lifted my spirits. And they’ve certainly taught me a thing or two.
Grace. Joy. Cooperation. Freedom of expression. Beauty. Adaptation to change.
Happy Christmas everyone! We’ve got Eachother, if not physically, then spiritually. On Zoom. Covered up inside (unless we’re in our little bubble). And out, now that the weather is cooler. Stay connected socially. And if you’re feeling lonely? Why not take a walk in the deep dark woods? Contemplate what the forest thinks of you as you absorb the loving energy from its wood wide web.
Website photo: Snowpeople in my neighbourhood. They do have Eachother, although one is missing his head.