Memorial Tree Planting

I didn’t know what people would think about my recent blog post, My Tree Friend. For most of my life I thought of spiritual experience mainly in terms of human beings and the Spirit. Vertebrates have nervous systems of various complexities. Dogs, cats, apes, etc. can learn and have memory but I hadn’t thought about them in spiritual terms.

Being trained and having a career in medical science on the one hand strengthened my belief in the Spirit. What else could create such complexity as nature and living organisms? But on the other hand, communicating with a tree didn’t fit science as I understood it.

Being raised as a Quaker I was familiar with worshiping in silence, and the expectation, and experience of the Spirit or Inner Light. And of expectant waiting on the Spirit at all times, not just during Sunday meetings for worship.

One of the many benefits of living without a car were the vast number of hours I spent in nature as I walked, ran or rode my bicycle. Especially during extreme exercise of long distance running I became acutely aware of how all parts of my body were working together (or not). I enjoyed “runners high” which was a heightened mental/spiritual state. And often near the end of a 13 mile run I would be feverently praying for the strength to make it to the end of the race.

Many days I would spend at least an hour walking and taking photos. I began to notice I was often talking to God. “Wow that is a beautiful flower you created.” I soon learned to stand still in front of something I wanted to create an image of. And I would be soon be shown the angle to stand at, how to compose the image. The longer and more carefully I would listen, the more images would be revealed to me.

So as I began to learn about indigenous spirituality, of how the Spirit is in all things living and non living, that made sense to me because of those experiences of running, photography and Quaker worship. I realized how narrowly constrained my understanding of the Spirit had been.

As I learned these things, I made an effort to be more aware of, and to try to communicate with the birds, animals, flowers, plants, trees, earth and sky as I walked. I got to know squirrels, dogs and hawks as I walked the same paths.

I often think about what my friend Joshua Taflinger once wrote:

What has risen to the surface at Standing Rock is a physical/spiritual movement. Learn how to quiet your mind. To find the silent receptive space to receive guidance. To learn to adapt and follow the pull of synchronicity to guide you to where you will find your greatest support and strength.
What I have found in my time praying in the indigenous earth based ways, is that it’s not about putting your hands together and talking to god…. It’s about quieting and connecting with the baseline of creation, of nature. Tuning into the frequency and vibration of the natural world, the nature spirits. The beings and entities that have been in existence, for all of existence, the examples and realities of sustainability and harmony.
It’s about becoming receptive to these things. Being open and flowing with them. The spirit guides us, but we have to make ourselves receptive to feel, sense, and respond to this guidance.

Joshua Taflinger

And this:

I am an Indian. I am a Cherokee. And I see God in the clouds and I hear Him in the wind. When I was a child I thought I could hear time, and I knew what the dove and whippoorwill said when they called from the meadows and the woodland.
It is the nature of the Indian to hear with the spirit because his life is based on spiritual foundations, immovable foundations that motivate him to worship. Music is a part of this, music from rustling leaves and singing streams, but from gifted people as well. Tears came when I first heard classical music in my youth, for I was being introduced to the angels. It still happens whenever I hear strains of violin music.

“A Cherokee Feast of Days (Volume 2)” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

So when Lance Foster asked us to make friends with a tree that made perfect sense to me. But I know I am just beginning to understand trees.

Today was the wonderful ceremony at Bear Creek Friends Meeting, which is in the countryside 2 miles north of Earlham, Iowa. Two trees were planted to honor the memory of longtime members and elders of the meeting, Wanda and Roy Knight.

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