This week’s healing story is a story of regeneration. It is about facing years of discrimination. It is about finding yourself alone and misunderstood. It is about fighting battles, inner and outer. It is a story of growing up. Not just in age but also as a person.
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than one seeks.”
A healing story by Price Sheppy
I grew up a homosexual in a small American town. My gay friends and I often got harassed. Some people would threaten to beat me up and at best people would simply say that they would pray for my salvation. I grew up going to church and struggled with my “sin” and wondered if I was going to go to hell.
When I was 16 and a junior in high school I got a summer job on a trail crew and it was the first time that I had to backpack 5 miles into nature and away from civilisation. It was the hardest work that I ever did. I remember the first time that I hiked up to a ridge line and looked in all directions and I didn’t see a city or a road. I was scared, but also I started to feel a release. It was the first time that I was ever away from my community/city, because I was so far away physically I was also able to create some mental space from my home town and emotions and feelings started to shift.
One day one of the crew leaders gave us 30 minutes to go into the woods and sit and be alone in the woods. At first it was scary, then boring, but then as I looked out at a beautiful view, the shift that I began to feel earlier finally came into perspective. Here is my best description of what happened.
All I knew was what my community had told me, being homosexual was evil and wrong. Suddenly I was away from that for the first time. Suddenly I realized there was more and bigger things then I had ever known. The wind through the trees was soft and warm and the branches swayed slowly. I suddenly was overwhelmed with what was the inherent Peace of nature. I felt safe. I thought of the animals and the squirrels and birds that I was seeing and hearing and felt that I belonged to a larger community. These animals and plants didn’t judge me for who I was. I felt accepted as just another animal in this world. It allowed me to accept myself for the first time in my whole life. Surrounded in the beautiful and safe space. I felt loved and I loved myself.
From that point on I have continued to go to the forest and open spaces to receive healing. It is an interesting kind of healing. Whenever all of the bad things in life happen I go to take a walk in the woods, or find a beautiful place and rediscover the peace nature provides. It is a strange kind of acceptance and peace nature offers because it doesn’t exclude the pain and suffering in the world. I am smart to know that when I am backpacking in the woods that I can just as easily die or be killed. I see the pain and suffering of other animals and their struggle to survive. Yet surrounding all of this is a beauty and a peace that is accepting of all of that and an acceptance of who I am. It seems to tell me to stand up and fight, and also helps me relax and heal.
Years have passed, but the healing moment has remained with Price and continues to influence his life and inspire his work. Price is currently working as Marin Community Program Manager for the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy in San Francisco. He leads walks into nature for people of different age groups and backgrounds. He hopes that through these walks he can help to introduce the healing of nature into other lives.
To visit the Muir Woods, is to walk into one of nature’s greatest shrines. You will be awed into silence as you go in and be a wiser person when you come out. Muir woods has been designated as a national monument in America. It lies in the Golden Gate National Recreational area near San Francisco, California and is one of the last few homes of the ancient coastal redwood forests.
Redwoods include the tallest living trees on Earth and can reach up to 115 meters (379 feet). Imagine standing under a tree that is as high as a 35 story building. Many old trees have huge cavities in their trunks – also known as goose pens (from the use by the earlier people) – which can hold more than 20 people. Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive.
Redwoods are also one of the oldest living things on Earth. The oldest known redwood specimen is about 2,200 years old, many others in the wild exceed 600 years. The reason redwoods are able to reach such high ages is their unusual ability to survive. Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires.
Fairy Circles: One of the most amazing things about the Redwoods is that they do not necessarily need a seed to form a new tree. Redwoods have the ability to produce sprouts whenever the cambium—the living tissue just beneath the bark—is exposed to light. New sprouts may come directly from a fallen branch, a cut stump or a burnt tree’s root. If the top breaks off or a limb gets sheared or the tree gets cut by a logger, a new branch will sprout from the wound and begin to grow into a new tree. The new trees are identical clones of the parent tree and may carry DNA which is thousands of years old. The forest is covered in such giant stumps surrounded by a circle of newer trees which are also known as fairy circles.
Some redwoods can sit patiently in the shade of the older trees for decades. Yet as soon as the elder tree falls or is cut down, breaking the thick canopy and allowing new light to enter the forest, the suppressed redwood springs up with new growth—a phenomenon known as release.
Lessons from the Redwoods.
A walk among these giants is a lesson in humility. With their size and age they give the small journey of our human lives a larger perspective. Their majesty and grace tells us stories of patience and endurance. Their resilience fills us with hope and reminds us that despite all the calamities and hardships in life, we carry within ourselves the ability to regenerate and renew our spirit.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
~ John Muir
Healing Forest is a project to explore fascinating forests and collect inspiring stories of healing from nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping Forests heal.
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