Not long ago, I was going through some deeply rooted personal issues and longing to escape to a safe place. At the time, I was living in my car and making the most of it by traveling to different campgrounds (perfect for blog content), or couch surfing when I had to be in town for work.
I had a few consecutive days off and decided to retreat to the one place where I am guaranteed to always find wonder, the mossy old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. On this particular trip, I was alone, lacking both partners in crime that have kept me company on long rides over the years. There was no boyfriend to sing with or talk to while I delight in passengers seat splendor. No, this time I was the driver, a driver lacking the familiar side mirror reflection of a happy husky head hanging out the back window. The boyfriend had found me a few weeks after my dog (first partner in crime) was killed by a train. They had never known each other, but between the two of them, I had never felt truly alone road-tripping, until now. I decided on venturing to the one place I had always wanted to go but couldn’t bring my dog per National Forest rules. The holy grail, the Mecca of all PNW forests: The Hoh Rainforest.
I arrived late. I parked and bustled around, searching for water, camera, and a snack to swallow quickly. I was determined to get into the forest before the sunlight completely vanished, even if just for a few pictures. Dusk was settling in as I darted toward the Hall of Moses trail. Even with only the sounds of frogs and birds in the background, my mind was busy. There were several signs with poems, quotes, and stations explaining nurse logs or how to identify specific types of trees by looking up at their tops. “Do I have time to read these or should I hurry in a bit farther to get a few shots?” I asked myself. It seemed wrong not to absorb all of the knowledge that surrounded me but still I only read half-heartedly, not letting anything resonate and the pictures I rushed to take, were careless and unfocused.
I began to notice how noisy and quick my steps were. Breathe. I snapped a few pictures, but there was nothing incredible about the lighting, and I surely wasn’t bringing this beauty before me any justice. I reminded myself to appreciate this moment. After years of wanting to see this, I was finally here. Finally, I slowed my pace. Wow. I was the only human in this green heaven, surrounded by ancient trees with massive trunks and drapes of soft moss strewn over branches like a fashion statement.
I wandered off the main path to get a closer look at a gigantic tree that seemed to stand unintentionally centered within its courtyard of shrubbery and ferns. I took off my shoes and reached up to touch her. I felt like I was stepping on a patch of moss below me that had previously remained untouched, so I respectfully retreated a bit and knelt to place my hand on one of her roots that had emerged from the ground. I closed my eyes. I asked her my questions and took a breath. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but long enough to listen. Perhaps I already knew the answers, and this was simply a beautiful reminder to look within.
Questions asked, thoughts poured in. During a time of wavering self-doubt, I found myself thinking, who else is like me? Who else would drive across state lines, take a ferry to the peninsula and drive another three hours only to kneel here alone in the growing darkness, looking for wisdom from ancient trees? I am deserving of something great. My pure heart needn’t feel so heavy. Instead, I should recognize how worthy I am. I often sell myself short, but why?
There was something about kneeling in the earth that night, surrounded by a different vibration of life that made me feel I was exactly where I needed to be. I stayed and connected until I felt calm, opening my eyes to notice the swiftly approaching night. I felt a bit melancholy to leave this peaceful place but resolved to return in the morning.
I tend to wander around without a flashlight, and on this particular night, I became turned around in the darkness. In spite of my previous meditation, I would be lying if I said the thought of a mountain lion didn’t cross my mind a few times, and that there weren’t a few “oh shit” moments. At one point, I came across the silhouette of a broken bench and knew I was on the right path only to discover the next day I had not seen that bench at all on my way in that night, as I took a different route out…perhaps we instinctually know more than our conscious minds can accept? As I ventured through the dark alone, I continually calmed myself by picturing these ancient trees as having my back somehow and eventually came across a particular scent from childhood that I couldn’t pinpoint, but recalled noticing at the start of the trail. This smell assured me I had found the correct path, and as I got off the trail, I sat on a log and listened to the frogs and bugs express themselves for a few moments.
As I reflected on the experience, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just met a very wise female ancestor. It was at this point I decided the trees were my family and contemplated making a post about how I just met my mother for the first time, but my paternal biological mother would never understand that. Perhaps no one would. How can I explain the wisdom, patience, acceptance, and love I felt from sitting alone touching an ancient tree? Why did I feel distinct feminine energy? Do we decide who and what are extensions of ourselves or is energy connection possible among all living things regardless of species?
The next morning I woke excited to return. I peeked outside of my car curtains from the cozy corner parking lot spot I crashed in and saw sunlight rising over the treetops. I went back to see the tree that had so profoundly touched me the day prior, but since I had already asked her my questions, this was much more of a social visit. Like breakfast with a parent before you have to go meet up with your friends. I didn’t know who my friends were that day, but I continued wandering, looking for a connection with other trees. It wasn’t until I nearly tripped over a sizeable protruding root that I found a little area at the base of a large tree to sit and think. I observed the surrounding roots while my hand rested on the bottom of the tree, and eventually, all of the emotions I came here with were released as I cried.
I pictured myself as a tree in this family of ancient trees in another lifetime. I imagined that I was given a choice to become human or stay with my tree family, and I chose human to experience love and adventure and had finally returned home to tell them about it. I pictured this tree that now cradled me, saying, “What’s it like?”
“Hard. Lonely,” I said aloud. And then quickly added, “But it’s also beautiful and worth the pain. The feeling of love when you get the chance to share it is the best thing in the entire world. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.”
I have always wanted to write a children’s book about trees. Something that resonates with the bright minds of the future on how important the forests are. Perhaps I had a creative glimpse into my next big project, or maybe I just had a few much needed moments of grounding. Either way, when my life was at one of its most difficult junctures, I found comfort within the trees. I encourage anyone who reads this to spend some time quietly sitting in the forest to see what comes up for you. Even if you do nothing more than sit and observe, you might find something more healing than can be put into words.