Legacy of the trees
There is a forest I love to visit – once an ancient wonderland of native trees and plants. It was logged in the 1930s and then sold to a faith community. They quickly started to create a unique retreat center.
Despite the poverty of the Great Depression, devoted nature enthusiasts worked tirelessly to replant the 120 acres, one tree at a time – cultivating a forest for the future. They folded in rhododendron and other native shrubs while some of the more prominent maple and alder volunteered to fill spaces between cedar and douglas fir.
Today it’s a tranquil place for visitors who can wander the trails, taking in the grandeur of a mature forest nearing 100 years old. While there is an inter-faith aspect to the many shrines, for me, it’s a thin place to plug into the mystery provided by Mother Earth.
In 2020 the retreat center purchased 169 acres of freshly razed adjoining land. The annex juxtaposes a flourishing interdependent forest and an industrial logging legacy.
On a recent visit to this spiritual oasis, I noticed new signage welcoming me to the additional clearcut landscape. Different trails and a Torii Gate (traditional Japanese spiritual culture) appeared among a sea of infant douglas fir.
Walking from a cool shady canopy of mature trees to the open sunshine on a warm September afternoon seemed to propel me forward. Rather than lamenting the past, I was inspired by possibilities for the future.
The notion that “it’ll all grow back” seemed complacent. Of course, nature is continually growing, but attention must be focused on ensuring regeneration into a thriving habitat.
The tiny trees are popping their heads through the straw-colored brush. In a few years, the Torii Gate will disappear from view at the entrance to the annex. 20 years from now, adolescents will compete for sun and space. In 2122, they will delight visitors who haven’t been born – wandering through a new world of inspiration.
These seedlings represent our future.
I will not be alive to see this reclaimed forest in mature splendor, so the thought of legacy grows more robust. I have more appreciation for those that came before me here – improving the land for future generations and me to enjoy.
As I continued my walk along the open ridge, the baby conifers emerged from the beige landscape with a new personality. Not about the past or the future, they asked me, “where and how are you planting new trees now?”
The volume increased as they encouraged me not to give up. Then the realization arrived that each of them was delivered to the rich earth by a human hand – despite steep hillsides and deep canyons.
The seedlings of life are truthfulness, authenticity, and acknowledgment of our interdependence – with nature and each other. We each have opportunities to take part in replanting and cultivating a better future.
Perhaps this email is an infant fir in the row with others I can plant in the world. I promised the future giants of those rolling hills I would try my best.
What seedlings are you planting?