April 11, 2014

Forest Nostalgia: Spiritual, Springtime Déjà vu.


Every spring, I start to become a little nostalgic. I remember the first few years out of high school when I started studying Buddhism, yoga, and Hinduism.

I remember the feelings of freedom to discover myself, my first apartment, my first full time job, and all the discoveries and disappointments of becoming an adult.

Several years ago, I went through a another life-altering experience. I was harshly confronted with the reality of my mortality. This seems like a cliché’ topic, but only those who have been truly on death’s doorstep can understand the deep and profound impact this has on you. It’s not like a near miss or losing a friend or family member—both of which can effect change in a person—but rather the deep, earth-shaking reality that control of your own life is really an illusion. This also happened in the spring.

During the following year, I was offered a chance to make a change in my life that would ultimately change everything around me. I lost and gained friends. I was confronted by family and curiosity seekers. I was scoffed at and praised. I became a Buddhist priest.

Before I accepted this monumental suggestion, I spent many days alone in the woods. Just thinking of how drastic the changes in my life were or could be. How many more days did I have left? How many times would I again hear the call of the Spring Peepers and see the families of deer that camp out in my back yard. Would I see my oldest daughter graduate from high school or my youngest daughter take her first steps? Of course, I still don’t know the answers to these questions but at the time, they were weighing heavily on me.

Today, I was in the woods again; the first day where it was warm enough to really appreciate getting lost deep in the northern forests, that are aptly named the Emerald Necklace, no noise outside of nature’s chants and my own thoughts. As I was walking, I found myself on the same path that I took a four years back. I came across a small stone heap and horned log that I had set up and I sat and remembered the day I was last there.

I sat and listened to the Spring Peepers, and watched the excited fury of squirrels playing with each other in the sun. As I sat, I ran my fingers through the soft moss beds and smelled the fresh green sprouts of spring flowers breaking through the nest of soil they had been hiding in all winter. This year, my walk wasn’t filled with doubt or fears. It wasn’t a time of anxiety or frustration at the turn my life had taken…it was a moment by moment appreciation of each noise that jumped into my ears, each smell that blew by me on the breeze, and it was filled with smiles and gratitude for that single moment of life.

As I left the woods, a new mother pushing her new born in a stroller walked by and reminded me of the power spring holds and the feeling of new birth and rebirth…that connection that only people who live in a climate of real seasonal change can relate to. As I drove away, the songs of my Celtic ancestors played on drum and pipe filled the air in my car and a few minutes later, the little girl whose first steps I wanted to see ran into my arms, giggled and squealed out, “Daddy!”

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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: elephant archives 


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