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Spring '97 Issue 1

Opening Thoughts

Ninety-Nine
by Richard Baynton

One Man's Antidote for Salem
by John Rude

Socially Responsible Business Practices, Salem Style
by Susan Cassuto

Here's My Beef
by Tom Duffey

"EarthSave" Salem Chapter
by Carolyn Berry

WE (Willamette Eco-Alliance) Has Arrived
by Laine Young

A Return To The Garden - Nature, The Divine Healer
by Michelle Catalani-Stringham

Opal Creek Preserved
by Michael Donnelly

Leadership From A Pure Heart
by Jacqueline Mandell

Transformation - The Way Through
by Helen Jeanne Bibelheimer

Salem Spring Without Allergies
by Kathy West

Wallamet Valley Environmental Center Invites Your Energy
by Peter Moore

A Return to the Garden - Nature, the Divine Healer by Michelle Catalani-Stringham

“I am bound, I am bound, for a distant shore,
By a lonely isle, by a far Azore,
There it is, there it is, the treasure I seek,
On the barren sands of a desolate creek.”
Henry David Thoreau

There has never been a time during my life when I could not take my greatest pains and seemingly unresolvable problems to a special place in nature and did not receive profound help. The pilgrimage back to nature, the realization of our own human limitations, and the willingness to ask for help can bring to each of us greater wisdom. We may gain new understandings of our illnesses and sorrows, and a renewed vision of how to continue and go forth with our life. In some cases, there could be a miraculous healing. Regrettably, many of us seem to have lost our ability to connect and communicate with nature in a direct and intimate way.

Perhaps this lost relationship, or “forgetfulness” in the ways of how to talk with plants, animals and other spirits of nature, can best be traced back to Genesis. Adam and Eve were tempted, and their consequence was expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In paradise, Man and Woman lived in harmony with, and were able to talk with, the plants and creatures of the garden. Out of Eden, they began to lose their understanding and respect for nature and the ability to communicate with other life forms. Humans, in general, developed fear of nature and the obsessive need to control it. History has repeated itself many times with the methodical destruction of our natural environments, and not always just for material gain.

We can look at the Roman Empire’s destruction of the great tree circles of the ancient Druids. The Romans established dominion over not only the material aspects of the Druidic cultures, but also sought to gain spiritual control and power through this act. With the destruction of the ancient groves, the Druids lost their greatest spiritual teachers and sources of wisdom. They believed that the old trees, having lived so long, were sacred teachers. The Druids believed these teachers capable of gathering knowledge from all directions and dimensions; from earth, sky, and water, and from the north, south, east and west. Sending their roots deep into the earth, the ancient trees could communicate with all things below; and through their leaves and branches, all things above. The Druidic cultures were devastated by the cutting of the trees in their ancient groves, their holy temples.

In shamanic cultures of ancient times, people received advice from, and communicated with nature. It was essential to have a respectful relationship, always asking first for permission to take from nature, and always being thankful for what was received. Human survival depended on this keenly developed ability to talk directly with plants and animals. Through this ability, humanity may well have learned the greater body of knowledge relating to the healing properties of plants.

Today, we are faced with the importance of reestablishing communication with the other forms of life, and remembering how to talk with them. God may have banished Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, but the gift of communicating with nature was never taken away. It simply fell away from disuse. With a little exercise, sincerity and respect, it is easily remembered.

Perhaps the next time you are faced with a crisis—an illness, an insurmountable problem, confusion, pain, depression, fear or loss— consider going to a place in nature where you can sit alone in a spot where you feel in harmony. Close your eyes and allow yourself to merge with this place. Or choose a special tree, or rock, or even a bird or wild animal. Ask this other being for help and allow yourself complete quiet in order to listen to its message for you. Many of us have special connections to Christianity, or other religions in which an intimate and primary connection with God is most important. It is in these special places in nature that one can find and embrace the silence to hear God speak with us. The voice of God may be carried on the winds or rustling in the branches of the trees if we but stop to ask and listen. Nature is a great healer and our dearest friend. She does not charge us for her time nor tell us to go away before we are ready. Everyone needs a special place in nature; a place imbued with spiritual power.

The California redwoods inspired S.A. Coblentz, a poet, to write:
“I think that could the weary world but know communion with these spirits breathing peace
Strangely a veil would lift,
a light would glow, and the dark
tumult of our lives would cease.”

Michelle Catalini-Stringham has studied ancient healing practices and traveled extensively for 27 years. She is a counselor with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

Alternatives Magazine - Issue 1

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