What a forest can teach us

Close your eyes. Picture a forest. See the trees and imagine how the sun finds its way to the forest floor in pointed beams through the canopy of leaves. It’s quiet. Not that there are no sounds. All forests have sounds. But in this particular forest, there are no non-forest sounds.

Photo by Samantha Hurley

As you gently and quietly move along a path that is not really there, you see small little saplings with only a few leaves poking cheekily up from the ground underneath the giants above. The mother trees.

Little do you know that what you see is less than half the story of the ecology of the forest. Underneath the very forest floor on which you are threading as lightly as you can, there is a network so vast, and so sophisticated, it is hard to fathom. The fungal threads, the mycorrhizal network, is where it all happens. It is both an alarm system among the trees in a forest, but it is also a way for the giant tree that was blown over by the last storm, to continue to feed the tiny ones a hundred meters away.

Everything is connected. All is one. Do not assume that life is only what is alive. And do not assume that what is dead is not life.

Leave it alone. Leave it be. But be with it and study it intimately. Lay down on the forest floor and appreciate how your body is temporal, spatial, relational and, yes, corporal. As you lay there say thanks for the time you have been given in this body. And extend gratitude and compassion for all living beings. Breath them all in and breathe them all out. Feel how the Mother Tree is actually Mother Earth. Hear her whisper. Hear her cry. Breathe her in and breathe her out. Thank her.

Read more in this story about Suzanne Simard from The Narwhal.