April 29, 2022

Twisted Sisters

Today, I met the “Twisted Sisters” in the forest. I laced up my hiking boots and set out to find them in what the locals call the ‘mixed forest’.  It’s the end of May but believe it or not, we had a heavy frost last night and many of the plants, the sumac and most of the ash trees have wilted or appear dead in response to being nipped with cold this late into Spring.  I can’t help but wonder how resilient mother nature is – and will these intricate pieces of nature regenerate themselves to fulfil their role in this ecosystem?  

This pocket of heaven offers a diverse landscape and environment for birds and wildlife alike.  Even from my vantage point as I write this I can see two pairs of nesting Baltimore Oriels, a pair of Bluebirds, hummingbirds, chipmunks, a garter snake sunbathing on a rock ledge by the blooming poppies and budding peonies and an Osprey soaring overhead. An early arrived Monarch Butterfly is enjoying the blooming chives refueling after his long journey. This is a paradise of solitude, quiet where one can be completely immersed in Mother Earth. The guardian of this property is most definitely a steward of the earth.

As I walked the trails this morning connected to nature and working out my prickly thoughts as I prepared for the day, a porcupine waddled across my path. I halted and waited for him to cross, watching him as he watched me, his quills long and layered. We were of no threat to one another, but the message he offered was clear: it’s safe to let go of the chaos of the world and to open my heart to joyful opportunities that are all around. I can’t explain how I knew what he was telling me, but my soul felt it.  As he moseyed on his way, I wept as I walked.  Releasing some kind of hold that was binding me unaware.

As I entered the mixed forest, and followed the trail markers into the thick trees, I was greeted by a deer skull and antlers leather bound to a cedar tree.  Situated in the East as if to offer protection and gentleness to all who enter here. I paid my respects and my gratitude and made my way to a natural clearing where a bench awaited my arrival.  There were cedars all around and oddly, loose porcupine quills at the feet of the bench.  As I sat and pondered this sacred patch of forest, I looked up to find the Twisted Sisters standing tall directly in front of me.

One trunk, a solid base, thick and sturdy extending upwards regally from the earth.  About five feet up, a small crack appears and extends higher where seemingly the cedar divides into two. At first glance it’s as if it had divorced itself, but didn’t really want to let go of itself entirely and so it continues upwards as two trees growing so intimately that they weave around one another, twisting in a dance of timbers.  As my eyes tracked upwards still, another subtle branch appears between the two extending straight upwards towards the sky.  As if the two were lonely and birthed a third to keep them company as they grew toward the light. And then, magically the limbs flourish in expansion as new green growths celebrate the sky. As my eyes reached the canopy of green that extends outward connecting all the cedars together as one umbrella, I could see the blue sky peeking through, blessing this unique woodland cluster.

What was remarkable to me was that the base was strong and sturdy to support so much activity above. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the tree experienced trauma in the form of lightening as the crack has old charred remnants peeking through.  Although the tree did it’s best to repair itself to its former glory, the lightening clearly divided it leaving evidence from its tale of woe. And yet the tree carried on as it’s old-self grew and its new-self grew at almost the same rate. By weaving and twisting they’ve supported each other, strengthening and supporting their foundation, both searching for the same destination.  Light.  When the third branch joins the others, they continue upwards as individuals, growing closely together and yet distinctly individuals at the same time.  When the third emerges, there is no more dance, just a straight shot to the top and a flurry of activity as the new growth dances in the breeze.  As if all the trauma and rebuild and regeneration were a part of its destiny, a part of its purpose and a part of its beauty.

There is so much beauty in nature – it’s everywhere if we just take a moment to look. It was as if that porcupine had left me the very clues I needed in order to find the answers I didn’t know that I was seeking. Mother Earth happily delivers us messages every day.  These Bluebirds remind me of someone special who has crossed over and I feel comforted by her presence here with me this morning.  The Baltimore Oriels remind me of my childhood and seeing an Oriels nest for the first time with my mom in our very own backyard. And the garter snake reminds me of the time that my brother and I thought it was a good idea to take a paint can full of snakes that we caught to school for show-and-tell without our parent’s permission. These beautiful memories are like messages of comfort from nature that instill gratitude and peace.  Mother Earth is perpetual and resilient and I know in my heart that the wicked frost that nature endured last evening is part of the process for the season ahead, even if we can’t see it yet. 

Xo Juli

written May 30, 2021 at Woodlands Retreat, Coldwater, ON

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