The boreal rain forests of British Columbia were where I spent my latter single-digit years. A magical world of greens and cool dampness, with spongy moss to soften my explorations and the pungent aroma of Skunk Cabbage forever etched into my childhood memories. Looking up past trees that towered so high I could not see the sky, I felt securely sheltered in the under-story of this quiet ancient masterpiece of Nature.
My explorations were carried out off the path. I traveled slowly, carefully, as silently as I could, out of my respect for the spirit of the forest and all the unseen creatures. I still recall my explorations feeling like I was home somehow, looking for shelter if needed, noting which trees were climbable, where the berries were, and how far I had travelled from the tiny stream trickling through the boulders by a favorite hidden thicket. I wanted to live amongst those old trees. And in those years of my youth, I practically did.
This sacred place remained my secret. It was a forest much farther along the path than my childhood friends journeyed in our games and playing. I had seen how school-mates treated the massive Banana slugs no matter how I protested, how they hated the smell of Skunk-Cabbage, how quickly they became bored, and did not seem to notice the sacredness of these deep old forests. I knew of no one who would understand the quiet magic and majesty of this precious place, except perhaps my father, but I assumed he was too busy and never told him about it.
When I remember how much time I spent alone in those forests, away from home for hours at a time, often sun-up to twilight in the summer months, I am sure that unseen forces helped protect me. There was a part of me that delighted in remaining hidden, and I would silently tuck behind a massive grouping of ferns upon hearing voices approaching along the nearby pathway. Like a forest sprite I would seek shelter from sight, hiding with other unseen creatures, watching the noisy humans pass by. I recall a thrill when once I heard a young woman say to her walking partner, “Wasn’t there a little girl up here? Where did she go?” I wondered if this is what deer felt like, to be seen and then to disappear, but actually remain closer than one might think.
In my joyous solitude, I marveled at the foot-long slugs and would get down, really close, to watch how their sides undulated as they glided across the mossy carpet, tentacle-like eyes seeming to glance at this young human and then turning away, unconcerned. The silken vestige of their travels shimmered almost magically in the soft light of that special forest. At the sight of a huge perfectly undamaged spider-web glistening with ten thousand shimmering dewdrops in the early morning light, my heart would fill to bursting and I began to discover the glory of God far more than in my family’s occasional visits to the local church. The sound of a songbird calling for a mate or defining its territory sounded so melodious that it melted my heart, yet even then I knew it was ‘just biology’. As I sat quietly on a mossy log to observe the songbirds, I recall noticing an interesting looking beetle soldiering along amongst the rough terrain of the forest floor, then suddenly tumbling over and flailing all legs in a feeble attempt to right itself. With a smile I picked up a fallen twig and gently touched the end to its belly plate, knowing it would grasp the small branch. Sure enough, and as I let go the twig onto the ground and watched this tiny armored tank continue on its mission, I noticed the seemingly black color of its back was actually shimmering with iridescent colors only to be witnessed if the light was at the right angle.
Even at this tender age before my tenth birthday, I truly found God in Nature. That my eyes could see such glorious beauty and hear such sweet melodies as wind in the trees and birds calling to mates, I felt that must be God. I felt then, and still feel, that God so glories in us humans that He gives us such gifts to behold with joy and wonder, that our hearts may open, and gratitude for this life, for every moment, may fill our hearts and overflow into the world. From one middle-aged forest sprite to the world, I say: Thank You God, for this life, for all of Nature, for every day. Thank you. May I help shine Your light and love from within me out into the world. May I assist others in remembering our abundant reasons for gratitude. And may we unite in holding together towards peace, towards healing, towards cherishing this great glorious globe that we are blessed enough to call home. Namaste. ~Gina