166: Connecting with Trees May Be a Startling Spiritual Experience

he clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir

    The IHM Sisters, who are leading us into this week’s pilgrimage in nature, describe trees as “Psalms.”
    I love that metaphor, because I grew up with Robert Frost’s “Birches,” recited to me by my parents at home before I could read myself. I find prayers in trees wherever I travel in the world. In fact, I took the three photographs of trees that accompany today’s story — and ReadTheSpirit Publisher John Hile produced the videos that appear this week. (To learn more about the principles behind our videos, jump back to yesterday’s story with the Sisters about water.)

    Today, we’re going to share with you the second of the three videos John produced at the IHM Motherhouse with the authors of a new book of meditations, “Nature Stations.”
    This second part is all about trees.

    We’re not alone in making these connections. I’ll bet you’re seeing trees pop up as spiritual symbols all around you this spring.
    Before we show you today’s video, let me share with you two haunting images of trees that I just cannot get out of my mind this week. (And, please, we would love to hear from you about trees — leave a “Comment” at the end of this story — or Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.)

    The first of my haunting experiences with trees involves a brand-new documentary DVD from the History Channel.
    (Click on the cover of the DVD below to jump to our review of it and you can order a copy, if you wish.)
    The documentary is called “Life After People: Welcome to Earth Population: 0.” And, no, it’s not a new chapter in the “Left Behind” series. The premise is: What would happen to all the things humans have made, if all humans suddenly vanished?
    The History Channel assembled a range of scientists and engineers to tell us which power grids would crash right away — and which ones (like the Hoover Dam) would run much longer. The experts look at how long our cities would survive before wind, water and lightening floods subway tunnels and even our biggest buildings begin to crumble.
    As the experts move from “1 day” to “1 month” to “1 year” to a century after human habitation, digital artists render scenes of former homes and offices. There’s a stunning scene in which the glass has fallen out of New York’s skyscrapers, vines have risen through the steel frames and wildlife begins to flourish in an urban jungle of flora and fauna.
    But the single most striking image, for me, was much closer to home. It involved trees. With startling speed, trees would grow in our carefully manicured front lawns, sprout between the cracks in our pavement — and soon trees would be growing where we once assumed people would be driving their cars, vans and trucks for many years to come.

    I’d suggest small groups view the documentary and talk about it in light of scriptures, such as Psalm 90, which includes these words:

“God, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever you had formed the earth,
From everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust …
For a thousand years in your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past.”

    Read the rest for yourself. There are similar passages throughout the Bible, the Quran, the Vedas and other scriptures as well.

    Then, here’s the second haunting experience with trees this week — and it came in an exchange of Emails just 24 hours ago.
    Each Monday morning, we send out a free Planner newsletter via email, looking at emerging spiritual issues in the week ahead. On Monday, I included an item about changing attitudes toward newspapers. Until recently, I’ve been a newspaper-based journalist myself for more than 30 years, but I share the fear of many journalists that newspapers, as we know them, are in steep decline.
    As journalists, we have known for years that younger readers have no interest in subscribing to print editions of newspapers. With each passing year, the age of indifference creeps upwards as those younger readers get older. Those younger Americans with no interest in print papers are now in their mid-30s. So, the core readership of most newspapers is getting older and older — and smaller and smaller — each year.

    However, freelance business writer Henry Blodget posted on online commentary just in the past week or so, raising another specter: “As new green business practices take hold, a new generation of consumers will come to view the newspaper industry as a horrifically wasteful polluter that eats forests, gobbles fuel and electricity … all to deliver information that might have been interesting yesterday.”
    In other words: What happens when younger Americans move from ignoring papers to calling them evil?

    I sent out that news item in Monday morning’s Planner. By Monday afternoon, a young journalist named Stephanie Birch, who is in her early 20s and works for a mid-sized regional newspaper, sent me an Email agreeing with these concerns:
    “Although I am a ‘budding journalist,’ I have to agree that I experience inner conflict about newspapers. I enjoy writing for one, but do feel that if an online newspaper or magazine came along that I had a chance to write for, I’d feel that was much better.
    “As much as I like the idea of the printed newspaper, when weighing the risks against the future of this planet, I would much rather preserve the environment for my children and grandchildren to enjoy. I think my generation is very ‘green-aware,’ and that it’s not so much that printed newspapers are evil. They’re just not necessary when considering risks to our planet and online alternatives.”
    In other words, like the Lorax, more and more of us are deciding to “speak for the trees.”
    That includes the IHM Sisters in today’s video.

    CLICK on the Video Screen below to view the second of this week’s simple,
short videos. We want you to meet B.J. and Margaret —
women just like you and me. Listen to what they’ve put together here.
    If you want to order copies of their booklet, which you can use throughout the year in many outdoor settings, visit the IHM Sisters home page and click on the Publications tab.
    If your version of this story doesn’t show a video screen here, Visit YouTube directly to watch the second “tree-theme” IHM video.


    COME BACK WEDNESDAY for a special treat: We’re publishing an in-depth Conversation With J. Philip Newell, a major voice in the worldwide neo-Celtic revival. We’ve been watching the buzz about his startling new book, “Christ of the Celts,” spreading across the Internet. This is a unique chance to hear from Philip himself.
    THURSDAY, from a Buddhist perspective, we’ve got Zen writer Geri Larkin — AND the third nature meditation on video from the IHM Sisters.
    FRIDAY, we’ll give you a teenager’s eye review of the new Narnia film, “Prince Caspian,” which opens across the U.S. on Friday.

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