Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Praying for Our Forests

Music to accompany the piece: Arja Kastinen in concert

On BBC Radio 3, I recently heard someone say: “Forest is not a place but a state of mind”. Here are some other quotes:

“The grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient.”  Tacitus, Germania

“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?”  Seneca

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”  Gandhi

“I’ve often thought of the forest as a living cathedral, but this might diminish what it truly is. If I have understood Koyukon teachings, the forest is not merely an expression or representation of sacredness, nor a place to invoke the sacred; the forest is sacredness itself. Nature is not merely created by God; nature is God. Whoever moves within the forest can partake directly of sacredness, experience sacredness with his entire body, breathe sacredness and contain it within himself, drink the sacred water as a living communion, bury his feet in sacredness, touch the living branch and feel the sacredness, open his eyes and witness the burning beauty of sacredness.” Richard K. Nelson

“The forests are the flags of nature. They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten. It may be that some time an immortal pine will be the flag of a united peaceful world.”  Enos Mills

“The groves were God’s first temples.” William Cullen Bryant, A Forest Hymn

“Ay me! ay me! the woods decay and fall;
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground.
Man comes and tills the earth and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality consumes:
I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit,
Here at the quiet limit of the world.
A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream,
The ever-silent spaces of the East.
Far—folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.”

 Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Tithonus

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”  Henry David Thoreau

                                                                            A forest in Gdańsk, Poland

“Going to the woods is going home.”  John Muir

“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. An I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”  John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks

“What will the axemen do, when they have cut their way from sea to sea?”  James Fenimore Cooper

“I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. Look at the sun: If there is no sun, then we cannot exist. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.”  Mikhail Gorbachev

“Forests were the first temples of the Divinity, and it is in the forests that men have grasped the first idea of architecture.”  François-René de Chateaubriand

“In the woods we return to reason and faith.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life has become extinct, and the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.”  Anton Chekhov

“Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.”  Julius Sterling Morton

“I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.”  Pablo Neruda

From a scientific viewpoint, forests (in particular the Amazon and the Congo rainforests) are the lungs of the earth, absorbing over a billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. Without these vital organs, the Earth will die.

I dedicate this ‘prayer’ to my dear friends and most dedicated foresters, Bill and Anne Blight in Devon.