“Into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir

I had barely explored one square foot of the festival’s space when I received the call. I almost didn’t bother answering my phone. It had taken us 17 hours of driving the day before to get to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I had a very limited amount of time to check out this Goddess Festival (article from 2016) that I had read about weeks earlier in my office up in Canada. This trip was all about my son and his upcoming enrollment at the University of Arkansas. I was merely trying to squeak in an hour of my scarce, unscheduled time to explore what a Goddess Festival (Facebook page for one held in California this year) might look like since I had never been to one and to experience how folks in a southern state in the USA might deliver one. Things of a spiritual nature had, since I could remember, always peaked my interest.

“Hello,” I said into my cell phone, as I continued to walk about the festival grounds examining displays and items placed strategically on tables.

“Mom.” It sounded almost more like a question than a salutation. I could tell by his voice it was my oldest son – a responsible and sensitive young man in his mid-twenties at that time.

“Hi Alex!”

“Mom.” Again, I noted this odd kind of hesitancy to his voice.

“Yes, Alex.”

“Mom.” Okay, now I knew. He was afraid to tell me why he had called. This sort of thing had not happened before, but I knew what he was about to say was causing him a huge amount of distress, so I quickly flipped into my mother-who-creates-a-safe-space mode.

“Alex. It does not matter what it is you have to say. I am your mother. I love you, will always love you, and could never stop loving you no matter what words you ever said and no matter what actions you ever took. I am, and always will be, forever yours.”

“Mom.”

“Yes, Alex. Just go ahead and say it. It’s okay. I can handle it.”

“Your mom died. Your sister found her deceased in her home.”

Still in that mode of wanting to make things easier for my son, I replied, “Oh, she is probably just sleeping.” It sounds silly, I know, but my instincts to make it easier for my son overrode common sense.

Alex’s bravery had been unleashed. He now took on the role of the caring adult, “No mom. There is no mistake.” His voice was compassionate and full of gentle strength. “Your mom has passed away.”

My mother’s death was sudden and very unexpected.

Still being in the frame of mind to hold the space for others, I finished my call with Alex by reassuring him that I was okay, that his grandmother had loved him very much, and that I would be on my way home promptly. Then, for fear that the festival organizers might misinterpret why I was so abruptly leaving their festival after having spent less than a few moments there, I briefly explained the situation to them. They offered their condolences, and I slipped outdoors into the parking lot.

It took mere seconds for me to find and lean against one of the few trees dotting the paved landscape. The moment my back rested against the bark of the tree – that moment where I became physically supported by this beautiful expression of nature – I let go of every inkling to stay stoic or strong. I knew I was in the arms of the purest form of unconditional love and support. The tree, an uncensored, unedited extension of the Divine, had my back, not just physically but also in an unmistakable spiritual way. In the tree’s embrace, I knew to my core that I could withstand this bombshell information and survive. The strength of something much bigger than myself fortified me. I stepped forward into the hours and days ahead of mourning and grief.

It would be months later while spending some meditative time reflecting on my life that I could see more clearly how profoundly trees and nature had played such a pivotal role in my spiritual journey. When I was a small child, likely no older than 6 years of age, I recall riding my bike down to a small wooded area at the end of our street. There, by a tiny brook, I would spend hours speaking with a divine power that I intuitively knew had created every element of the natural world – plants, animals, rocks, clouds, and me! I felt as though my home was not on this planet but up in the sky with this divine power and that the trees, birds, stream, etc. were all pure expressions of this sacred, omniscient, eternal force, and because nature offered a pure, unaltered expression of this celestial entity, I got the sense that by connecting with the natural world, I received a direct line of communication with this loving presence. Comfort and companionship also filled me when spending time with the trees, plants, animals, etc. because they felt like brothers and sisters to me.

Over the years, it has been intimate moments with nature that has sustained me and given me the close connection to Source, to God, that I crave, as I navigate my way through this human experience. A visit to my home would reveal a myriad of representations of trees. I have paintings of trees, sculptures of trees, and plates, napkins, cups, coasters, etc. with trees on them. My property rests on a half-acre treed lot covered with beautiful old oaks and pines to which I have added an additional thirty plus trees in the last year, and when I am not busy tending to the yard, I am off across the street on the trails of a provincial park. For me, if you want to get close to God, get close to nature.

(Pinery Provincial Park)