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Winter Landscapes: Being with Trees

Having a landscape to oneself is an exclusive pleasure. Many of us stumble upon this by surprise. Suddenly it is there -unshared, solitary. One may well experience a reckless moment of freedom, a penetrating moment of understanding. A meaning that was elusive is suddenly clear.”

– Margaret Owings, artist and conservationist

Rain on Pine Needles

In the Pacific Northwest we’re blessed to live among trees offering beauty and shelter, and that clean our air. We’re gifted with a long rainy season. Winter rains provide nourishment and protection for trees. They give way to a saturated vibrancy –from the needles of Pine, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Cedar trees to the ferns, moss and wood sorrel arising from earth and out of bark, to the leaves and flowers yet to bloom in spring and summer.

The rains lend also to a softening that mirrors the quiet of the winter season and shorter days.  Thanks to the clouds, light tends to be more diffused during our winter months. The downward flow can inspire a reflective way of being. And because during the rainy season, more people stay indoors, they also create more possibilities to have a landscape to oneself, for solitude and a reckless moment of freedom, as Owings so beautifully suggests.

I encourage you to put on a rain jacket and boots, and head into the woods this winter (add rain pants if precipitation is heavy, hiking poles if the ground is slick).  Whether you follow a path or simply meander, explore calling in all of your senses to support being with trees and landscapes, with yourself and understanding.

  • Look up, down, and all around. Notice canopy heights, textures closer to earth, and what lives in between.
  • Listen to the sound of rain mingling with vegetation and organic matter. Take a moment to hear wind traveling through branches, and the beings who call this place home.
  • Smell the dampness. Breathe in the fragrance of moss, dirt, bark and leaves.
  • Touch the trunks of trees, and surfaces of moss and lichen. Feel water drops resting atop ferns, and the slipperiness of rocks.
  • Taste the rain. Lift up your face and stick out your tongue.
  • Feel what you’re present to. Sense the spaces around you as you feel sensations inside your body.

In Portland: We’re fortunate to have many options for spending time with trees. Forest Park, Hoyt Arboretum, and Portland Japanese Garden are a few of my winter favorites.

In Oregon: To learn more about forests throughout Oregon check out Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide, by Chandra LaGue. This book highlights the states ancient forests via 90+ hikes (ranging from easy to vigorous) while offering insights as to what makes our forests so unique and what we might discover within them.

For seasonal mindfulness offerings visit classes. Head here for a poem inspired by the beauty of winter. If interested in embracing the beauty and energy of this coming summer, check out Relaxing Into Presence, a 4-day mindfulness + yoga retreat happening in June in Oregon’s Coastal Range.

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