This week found me not in front of a computer, trying to string words together, but out in green fields of tall waving grasses, attempting to create a path to a giant fir tree in our back yard.
This tree was about 120 feet tall before her topmost point broke off on a windy day a few weeks ago. When we first met this tree nine years ago, we had to part her bottommost branches to step inside her sublime interior world of aromatic air, soft ground, and filtered light.
As we squeezed past the branches to approach the rugged silver trunk of the great tree, we were surprised by the sight of thousands of small pink star-shaped flowers blanketing the circle around the tree’s center.
It would still be another 4 years before I discovered the practice of shamanism, but that first time I stepped into the enchanted world of the fir tree, an image of a circle of people gathered under there with drums came to me. I never made the vision a reality.
Now the great tree is dead. I watched her green branches turn brown three years ago in the midst of the soft and plentiful rains of spring. About a fifth of the fir trees in our valley died that year, victims of drought or beetle, we’re not sure which.
And at this moment, as we pass the threshold of 100,000 deaths in the United States due to coronavirus, it seems fitting that I somehow find a way to honor the center, our common source of life, through this tree.
As our beloved tree breaks down before our eyes, I am coming to understand that she is becoming ever more hallowed with the passage of time. When we learn to honor the hollow nature of the center within, when we can allow ourselves to be stripped of all that is inessential, we are rewarded with an unobstructed flow of spiritual power from the collective and shared center that claims us all, Gaia.
This beautiful tree is giving it all away. Her body is becoming what is known as a wildlife tree, or snag, becoming home to hundreds of new forms of life. Her changing body is as tangible an example of resurrection as you’ll ever find. But in days like these, this still isn’t enough for me.
As I mourn the staggering loss of life, tree and human alike, I have found myself creating new pathways to the dead fir tree in our backyard. With ritual offerings of vodka, tobacco, fire, and prayer, I have dedicated this tree to serve as the sacred tree, or oboo, for this land.
The vision of the circle of people with drums under the tree never became a reality—until now, that is. Now these bare branches will serve as a nature shrine of intention for an ever-widening circle of people.
With each journey I take for the intention of another, near or far, I will tie a white ribbon onto the sacred tree. If you live in the Eugene area and wish to visit the ritual tree with an offering or an intention of your own, you are most welcome to visit.
If you are reading these words but live at a distance, email email@example.com with your intention so I can add it to the others flying on the beautiful sacred tree of this land.
With time, the assembled offerings of sage and prayer, intention and ritual, will concentrate spiritual power even more profoundly in the sacred tree, making visible and the holy center that abides in each “person,” be it a tree, stone, or human.
This sacred center, hidden behind appearances, protected by green branches yields to the efforts of the spiritual seeker. Once inside the collective center, the singularity where all times and all places meet, one finds that the light and air is changed and the ground is covered with pink star flowers.
In the center that is simultaneously deep within and all around you, there is no separation. In the center, there is no visible brokenness that isn’t also bound by an invisible wholeness. And there is no death that isn’t also conjoined with the larger reality of life. All appearances to the contrary, the center still holds.