Sunday, February 18, 2007

Planning With the Grove

A few months ago, I gave a talk at our UU congregation about Earth-centered spirituality and focused on my own experience with trees. I described as best I could how it feels to have a conversation with a tree. After the service, I was approached by about 6 or 7 different individuals who wanted to "confess" (really confirm and affirm) that they, too, had these experiences. Most were men. Most seemed terribly relieved, delighted even, to have someone mark out loud an experience they had known personally for some time.

Today, I went out into the grove behind my house, having been drawn there, as I understand it, by the space itself. A few days ago, while jogging, the grove suddenly came to mind, and in particular, the space at the back of the grove where I had been considering a Druid's garden, this image came to me. The space is an oblong circle (or an oval) set off by pine or oak trees at the cardinal positions (pine at east and south, oak at west and north). The pines are 25-30 feet tall and about a foot at the base. The oaks are youngish and I think "water oaks" which are not always very large anyway, more like 15-20 feet tall and 5-10 inches at the base. The image that came to me was a classical labyrinth set in that oval with Druidic herbs planted in and among and around the labyrinth--so a garden labyrinth. The space would become at once a garden and a place for walking meditation.

I went to the space just now to tell the space of my idea, and to listen for its permission and direction. This kind of "talking for me" is a combination of images and words which I use very quietly. I think the words are mostly for me, and the images are the energy form that trees and plants communicate with.

I sketched the space and made notes about trees, etc. And then, I began asking the plants and trees for permissions. The space within the oval is filled with blackberry bramble, honeysuckle vines, and small saplings and other scrub that has grown up in what had been once open space within the grove. (I mentioned in the earlier post that this seems to have been farmed at one time, and I suspect that opening may have resulted from that. The opening in the grove is also about 30-40 feet from the stream that runs at the back boundary of my property.

Specifically: I asked blackberry if I might cut and remove the bramble in the oval, but that I would want her to relocate through her roots to the outer edges. I love blackberry and would not want her to disappear. She gave permission as long as I do this before spring sprouting begins. Honeysuckle gave an immediate nod of approval for the same. I asked all of the trees for permission to remove small saplings and small trees that are in the oval. Honestly, if they all grew, they would crowd each other terribly. The message I got back was an affirmative, but where possible, I should dig saplings up and relocate them toward the stream. Finally, I asked the space about placing the garden-labyrinth there. The image I got back was that this space had inspired this from the beginning and had called me to this image. In other words, the idea of the labyrinth garden came from the space itself. In a sense, I already knew this.

I started to leave, and then realized that I need to ask one more permission: of poison oak, ivy and sumac. I knew they were there, but I could not see them. I asked them if they would locate outside of the oval and be our guardians, not our enemies. The reply: yes, if you will do the same for us.

This space, from the day I began working in it draws me as space for human beings, perhaps only this human being, but I sense others, to find new and deeper communion with the earth, with nature, and with the particular trees of this grove.


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