Add to that, working with the inherent judgments that arise for those not wearing masks and those not even attempting to honor social distancing, taking time to implore store management to require masks for all patrons, and taking time to catch up on news. By the time I returned home, I was exhausted, stressed and discouraged. The virus was now acting in differing ways, there was the growing conflict with those that wanted to open up the economy and those that felt it was too risky, and the ongoing saga of mishandled leadership as the administration continued to stumble along.
All this was a perfect storm for feeling hopeless, sad and depressed. And I did. I got home and cried in the shower--the shower that now needed to follow a trip into town just to be sure every chance of the virus' survival is washed away.
The more I climbed, the more it felt like the High Sierras where fewer and fewer live trees survived in the stark and difficult terrain. When I made it to the top, it was as I suspected and as I had seen from the road far below, the crown of the mountain was a convex bowl of large charred toothpicks, save the few cell towers and human made apparatus’ that supported their operation.
As I roamed from one barren peak to the next, it felt like a Sci Fi movie where I had landed on a dead planet and longingly searched for life. At the second cell tower station, I climbed on the tallest rock formation to capture a panorama photo and just down the hill, toward the first station, I noticed some green. Sure enough, as I looked more closely, it was one large standing green conifer. A tree survived??! Wow! In the midst of all the surrounding death. That would definitely be where I created the altar.
I scrambled across the land to discover not one, but some six trees standing with the very tops of their crowns green. Would they survive? Well, it had been over four years and here they were.
Bits of an ode surfaced in my mind. These trees are now the elders of the mountain—well for the top of the mountain, anyway. They will be the ones that repopulate their kind over the generations to come.
Just how long had it been since the fire, I thought? Siri calculated it and it was exactly 1,700 days prior. I didn’t want to come the day before or the day after, no, my intuition said today. Today.
I placed the meditating dog, hair and ashes at the base of the tallest and strongest looking tree and wrote this homage in my travel journal:
May 8, 2020
Exactly 1,700 days ago the Valley Fire of 2015 decimated this forest.
Some six conifers remain near the top and have become the elders of this part of the forest.
They are charged with helping to repopulate the forest and look over it’s well being for generations to come.
To these trees:
May you be healthy and strong and may all your offspring and their offspring be healthy and strong, and so on.
This altar is in honor of your relatives—those that have passed and those that will come.
Thank you for your dignity, wisdom and life giving to all the creatures of the forest.
With deep regards,
Then, aside the tree I settled in and meditated on the mountain, as the mountain, for the mountain.
The wisdom from the mountain? Yes, despots and empires rise and fall. Humans will do terribly small and reprehensible things to each others. Pandemics will come and go. Economies will crash. And....a billion-and-one acts of kindness will result from such things, such as the surviving trees offering their body as a home to the birds, ants, and more after a devastating fire takes virtually all of her relatives.
And the mountain remains, bearing witness to it all. Holding it all. Steady, stable, grounded and rooted deeply into the earth.
What wisdom do you find in mountains?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.