From the age of 8 I would romp around the bush, enjoying the experience of carelessly leaping over rocks at the Cotter River near Canberra on one of the many family weekend driving adventures.
I remember also as a child the times that my friend and I would take care of the trees in the grounds of my primary school. I could never understand why kids liked to wound the trees by writing their names in the tree trunks. My friend would bring a container of left over liquid black tea from home and we would bathe the wounds of the tree together. In our own innocent way we hoped we were making them better somehow.
I feel that my love of nature was affirmed in my early 20’s when I was given the name of ‘Gunnarri’ meaning “Tall Tree” by an indigenous woman of Yirrikala in the Northern Territory. I was fortunate at the time to participate in a Faith and cultural Exchange with the Uniting Church. As participants we had been educated in the local culture and language. We’d been encouraged to learn from these people in contrast to the dominant missionary approach of the past. The people of Yirrikala were very generous and welcomed us warmly. This experience forever, changed my life but that’s a story for another day.
My point in all this reminiscing is that the natural environment has been important to me for most of my 52 years.
But just lately…… my appreciation feels more potent.
This reawakened awareness began the other Sunday at Riverdell. The small planning team of which I was a part of, decided to explore Trees as a symbol or metaphor for ‘change’. We reflected that a tree has its own essence. A Blue Gum is a Blue Gum and always will be. From its beginning as a seed, to the end of its days it can’t be anything else. Likewise for a Peppercorn or an Apricot or a Wattle Tree. And just like us, we as individuals have our own essence, life happens and we can get knocked around and feel battered and bruised. Just as a tree shows scars by the challenges of its life we also do. However, despite these visible or invisible wounds we still carry our individual essence or divine nature just like the tree. It is constant, our substance never changes.
Another thing we did during our Sunday service at Riverdell, was to go outside and connect with a tree. This was incredibly powerful and restorative for me. As I leaned against the white smooth trunk of my chosen gum I said ‘thankyou’ and thought “why don’t I do this more often?” I opened myself up to listen and found it softly whispering back “I’ll always be here, I’m not going anywhere”. I felt secure, supported and full of reassurance. I was reminded that trees and the natural environment are a sacred gift that bring balance to life and peace of mind.
It now seems so obvious, I can’t believe how disconnected I had become from the natural environment. I want to rekindle my relationship with the natural world, rebuild that connection that I enjoyed when I was young. I know from past experience that when I open my senses to listen, to smell, to feel the breeze and touch the rock or the tree and open my eyes to see the natural world around me I feel at peace. I want to open my heart to give and receive from the gifts of nature. Be in it, sit in it, play in it, love in it.