Seen from a distance, earth’s flora and fauna are one organism. Our exhale is the cedar tree’s inhale and the cedar tree’s exhale is our inhale.
Sitting down in a cedar circle deep in local woods; a circle I have sat with many times down through my life, do I merely imagine that I lift those tree’s spirits as much as they lift mine? I wonder if the smell of our breath and that of all creatures, is pungent aromatherapy for the plants and trees, like the smell of cedar is for us?
Seen from a distance those cedars and I are one organism; one breathing organism.
The Pacific Northwest’s unique regional culture is merged with the scent and essence of cedar, with the salmon, the eagle, and the mighty Douglas Fir. I imagine that even to this day, children born here build their formative worlds deep in the parks and forested vacant lots of Bellingham. Certainly Bellingham children still eat more wild salmon in a year than most USA children consume in their whole lives. I pray that Bellingham children will forever smell of cedar.
Many newcomers to the Pacific Northwest appear to have been called here by the spirit of this land. They experience a profound connection to nature here; a powerful and primal experience that is becoming rare within the USA mass culture, especially among we of European descent. Truly, you don’t need to be a Pacific Northwesterner by birth to be a real Pacific Northwesterner; adoption, marriage or conversion are open to you as well. It is never too late to have a happy childhood, and likewise it is never too late to sit in a cedar circle and breathe a good spell (or two or three) in the company of those who are older than you; those great oxygen, and insight, givers – the trees.
Mind you, many people walk through our forests as if touring a nature museum, and certainly the exhibits around these parts are simply wonderful. Some run through the forest, or bike. Occasionally you will see exercisers with headphones on; lost in their own worlds, or maybe those of their Masters.
Of course, some view trees as potential lumber; soulless large vegetation, almost lifeless.
Yet, humans share a strong sense of time. When we hold an antique in our hands, we feel a connection through that object with the past, to something older than we are, to our ancestors, or to other people’s ancestors.
Sitting at the base of a large cedar tree, my head dropped back, looking up, not only does the sense of the tree’s vast age dawn on me, but also the fact of it’s tremendous height and size. These combined humbling awarenesses quickly bring my ego structures into right relationship with a bigger picture. It has taken me nearly half a century on this planet to live and grow and be where I am today, but long before I was born and, I pray, long after I die, the cedar has been living and growing here on earth.
Of course, other humans down through history of this region, and many other creatures as well, may have rested their backs against the cozy cedar bark of any cedar tree I meet in the forest. They may have imagined the tree’s roots beneath them, and the canopy far above their puny little mind’s grasp, and suddenly they may too have experienced a great rush of joy.
Is it our imagination that the trees delight in us, that they experience something like pure happiness when we stop and commune with them for a spell? Does our body’s breath, rich in carbon dioxide, quite literally make their sap flow stronger?
I know that oxygen produced by cedar trees is good medicine, and it is still available in the Pacific Northwest. The cedar is to the Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Northwest culture, what sage is to the deserts of the Southwest, and the cultures there. Cedar is sacred, not just for the Lummi and other local Native American people, but for all people everywhere, and for all creatures too.
Personally I believe that the easiest way to become a true Bellingham native is to enter our forests as a child, no matter your age. Sit with your back merged with the trunk of an old, deep, tall, and wide cedar tree and simply breath a spell.
Remember that from the vantage of the Pacific Northwest forest’s canopy, earth’s flora and fauna are one organism. Our exhale is the cedar tree’s inhale and the cedar tree’s exhale is our inhale.
cedar tree’s inhale.
Cedar tree’s exhale,
Pacific Northwesterner’s primal inhale.