Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Saunter to Sand Run Falls (May 30th, 2020)

I made a visit to the trail that leads to Sand Run Falls yesterday afternoon with Erin and our dog, Ivy, as well as Erin's parents, Lynn and Glo. The weather was warm, some clouds and some sun, with just a little wind now and then.

It seemed there was just so much to appreciate about this trail from the rocks to the plants and trees with leaves fully unfurled as well as singing birds and tiny red efts crossing the trail. Many of the sandstone rocks whose tops protrude several feet above the dirt like small islands are marked with pebbly conglomerate. Rough and bumpy to the touch.

The plants that grow along this three mile stretch of trail include a healthy variety of ferns and clubmosses. Of course, there are lichens on most every rock, tree, and fallen log. I was pleased to locate two species of liverwort as well; the ground dwelling conifer root loving Bazzania trilobata, which I've grown accustomed to calling Conifer liverwort, and the one with affinity for birch bark, Frullania eboracensis, which I've taken to calling birch bark liverwort.

Most of the birds are out of sight but not out of hearing range. the songs and calls of scarlet tanager, back-capped chickadee, and black-throated green warbler greet us as we make our way through the forest. There are some small plants blooming in these woods, and one that caught my eye today was starflower; having a whorl of simple leaves around the stem and one to two small white star-shaped flowers above the leaves, it is a woodland plant to take note of.

Starflower Trientalis borealis
We heard the roar of Sand Run Falls about five minutes before seeing it. When we finally did arrive at the base of the falls it felt totally rejuvenating to dip in for a quick swim.

I know that the plants and animals along the trail are not here purely for our enjoyment and consumption. These Wild Neighbors are teachers, who, as we take time to get to know each one, welcome us into a most profound experience of belonging as the Spirit of Divine Creativity in us is greeted by the Spirit of Divine Creativity in each member of the forest community and by the collective whole. Follwing the example of Jesus the Christ, I respond with the words, "Peace be with you, neighbor."

Sitting on a rock where two streams converge a little downstream from Sand Run Falls, I'm contemplating the gift of forgiveness. The forest knows the forgiveness that Jesus teaches about; never holding onto past things, flowing into fresh expressions of life, uninhibited by guilt and resentment. These things (guilt and resentment) have no place in the forest. The old oak does not resent the creek for changing its course. Neither does the chickadee hold a grudge against the snake who made a meal of her most recent brood of eggs. The forest may not know forgiveness as we do because there are no grudges or resentments to speak of here. But the forest can teach us about forgiveness because the forest knows release. I know that if I want to experience this gift of release that opens the door to fresh expressions of life and new possibilities for me, then I owe it to myself to follow this teaching of Jesus, making the decision to forgive all whom I have feelings of guilt and resentment towards. Even if it may take time to work through the process, I make the decision to forgive today.

I am a student of Jesus and of wild spaces. The forest teaches me the freedom of release. The forest is a good teacher and also a place and a living community. The forest is a space of belonging through which Jesus leads me into community to live my very best life in relationship with all of my neighbors.

My prayer is that the gift of forgiveness and the sense of belonging in wild spaces may be known by you as well. Peace be with you, neighbor.

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