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The Land of the Whispering Trees

Let us live in the land of the whispering trees,
Alder and aspen and poplar and birch,
Singing our prayers in a pale, sea-green breeze,
With star-flower rosaries and moss banks for church.
All of our dreams will be clearer than glass,
Clad in the water or sun, as you wish,
We will watch the white feet of the young morning pass
And dine upon honey and small shiny fish.

— Elizabeth Bishop, Let Us Live (With nod to The Book Binder’s Daughter)

I was describing the trails through nearby conservation land to a neighbor who sticks to running on pavement. She is reluctant to stray into the woods, blaming everything from the possibility of getting lost to hunting season. There are surely risks in the woods, but aren’t there also risks in never venturing into them? How do you find magic on pavement? Its only purpose is speed. Isn’t life fast enough already?

Humans have chosen to be bound to the clock and calendar where speed is valued more than meandering. More than lingering. More than reverence. We ought to put aside our schedules and listen more. The trees in the forest live in a timeless world, rooted to their ancestral home and holding things together for future generations.

We humans are rapidly closing out another year on the calendar. Did we meet our goals and realize our dreams? Are we making progress or slowly sliding backwards? Human lives are filled with such questions. We fill our lives with so much noise that it becomes hard to hear the answers.

A forest is a choir, singing to the universe. We’d be wise to listen. They suggest that we might choose a different life, free from such human constraints as clocks and calendars, yet sustained and rooted just the same. The forest, timeless as it is, whispers only one question: Just what do we dream of anyway?

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