As I made my way down the manicured path into the forests of Pemberton park thoughts from the discussions and readings of this past week floated to the surface of my mind. After a week of learning that what I thought I knew of my life, and the world as a whole, just scratches the surface of what truly is these thoughts have come to permeate my consciousness almost every waking hour. I had intended this walk to be a time to organize these thoughts and anchor myself in the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer but I found myself distracted by the twining of English ivy climbing and choking the trees and the plastic bottle floating among layers of algae on the rivers surface caused by runoff from the farm down the road. Pemberton is a place that I come frequently, with friends or with a dog, but on this day I decided to come alone with a notebook, a water bottle and a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass.
I made my way to my favorite place in the park, a clearing lined with trees, that provide many suitable anchors for hammocks on one side and bee boxes on the other, I began to think of all the places like this one I have known. I have tread down many trails made of gravel, wood, grass and the like, but there have been few instances that I have made my own way and followed no path through undisturbed nature. I settled down on the edge of the tree line, inspired by Kimmerer’s own experience as she found an “elder, [her] Sitka Spruce grandmother” under whom she settled “right between her roots” (206). And a while later, after finishing the readings from Braiding Sweetgrass, I couldn’t help but consider my own life in terms of the lessons the author was teaching her students about the relationship between humans and the plants and earth that surround us.
Going to Quaker school much of what we did was anchored in, what I have come to understand, as not only a religion but an ethos and way of life. One of the six central Quaker values, or the second ‘S’ in the Quaker S-P-I-C-E-S, is stewardship, taking care of what we have been given for the community and for future generations. I see many similarities between the idea of incorporating these values into not just one part of life, but in everything aspect of life as Kimmerer shares in her novel.
I began to reflect on my own spiritual roots in connection with the world above, around and below me. I considered the ways in which this exercise of going into nature, which for many people is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience and decided to return to a practice that I haven’t experienced in a long time which often makes me uncomfortable; Meeting for Worship (Meeting). Inner stillness and reflection, or even silence, are no longer a part of my routine anymore, but for thirteen years silence with the purpose of finding the light within me was a central part of life. Silence and stillness are not common anymore with the invention of technologies that allows us to be in constant contact and have constant interaction.
As I began my silent worship, I felt the discomfort in doing nothing but spend time considering creep over me. I decided this too will be a goal of this class for me as well as returning to nature; I will observe the world that surrounds me and as I return to a familiarity with nature I will return to a familiarity with silence. It is tradition that for each Meeting a guiding query is selected to contemplate, so as I considered my own inner light I also reflected on the Native American philosophy that every creature carries a gift and with it the responsibility of using their gift. The silence left me with the thought that just as there is a link between the Quaker idea of the light within and the Native American belief of a unique gift and the responsibility of carrying that gift; there is interconnectedness between every living thing on this earth not only physically but spiritually whether we realize it or not.