Forest Bathing International Magazine, Issue 1 - Page 31

III. Climbing up and over the hummocks again, we made our descent down the mountain. I had realized at some point that these hummocks were the cut and abandoned bodies of old-growth redwoods, which had once been the forest of this place. The bear’s secret bed deep in the coastal redwoods that had taken us a full day of focused trailing to find was not so impenetrable as it seemed to me and likely seems to the bear.

At one point the whole of it had been explored and razed in the exploitation of the trees for their lumber. The forest was irrevocably changed. The giants of the forest, these ancient redwoods, were now laying dead in the soil rotting into nurseries for the next generation of trees. The safety of the bear and its intimate relationship with its forest home seemed staggeringly fragile as my mind registered the scope of destruction that had been visited upon this place by previous generations of settlers.

As we descended, I felt a sadness welling inside me. It was something deep that was incongruent with the joy of our day’s journey. It was related to the feeling of climbing over those long dead trees. It was a memory that I felt in my body but could not yet picture in my mind.

Once back in the truck headed home we began to ruminate out loud about the day. Between bouts of excitedly retelling each other the days events, I grasped for the source of this sadness welling in me. What was the experience of moving my body over those dead trees calling me to remember? What was the connection to bear?

It hit me suddenly as we drove: what wanted to be remembered was a dream I had in my teens.

I find myself on a path in an ancient forest. I look down at my body and see that I am a Native American man. I am wearing a simple loincloth and I am unencumbered by possessions. I can feel the path under my feet

and I am marveling at the trees. I am moved by their age and their individuality and at the way that they have moved and grown together to harvest the fullness of sunlight in this place. They are individuals and yet completely unified. They are ancient and emanating wisdom and love. I can feel them. I can feel that they love me. They are a part of me. They know me. Then a disturbing thing happens. A voice loud and clear interrupts the scene to say, “This is the world your ancestors knew. It is gone forever.” The words shock me awake. I am crying.

This was the first of a series of similar and powerful dreams involving different ecosystems in North America. I do not

know for certain that the bones of any of

my ancestors lie in the soil of this continent. My limited investigations have yielded unclear results. While, as a white adult examining racism, I am dubious about these familial claims to native heritage, they did form a strong aspect of my identity. I was

very proud of this heritage as a child and

into my adulthood.