Scientific & Spiritual Areas

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As soon as you enter this woods, a sacred hush falls upon you, envelopes you, permeates you, and you know that the Mystery is powerful here. Even the most casual strollers you encounter seem to be under its spell, and walk with a more reverent air.
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In this woods Sugar Maple Trees over 200 years old tower above you.
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This woods is one of the few significant remnant old-growth parcels of “The Big Woods” left in Minnesota. While we have the Boreal Forest of conifers, birch and aspens in our north country, “The Big Woods” was a deciduous hardwood forest that once covered nearly 2 million acres through the central portion of the state. This remnant virgin woods is 220 acres. Virtually everything else of the original “Big Woods” is now gone, or second-growth.
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Technically, this woods is a “Scientific & Natural Area” – in Minnesota SNAs are used to “preserve natural features and rare resources of exceptional scientific and educational value.”

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Though we may know that the entire Earth itself is sacred, and we may tune in anywhere, there have always been those places where Spirit has felt more present. In my experience SNAs, these little niches of preserved pristine nature, are often times liminal spaces – thresholds between the ordinary and the non-ordinary reality.
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I like to believe that the sacredness of these places was strong enough that even humans hell-bent on subduing the landscape could feel it….and were inspired to preserve it. But it must also be acknowledged that many times it was the rugged form of the topography itself that saved an area, being unfit for commercial or agricultural development. And it is this very topography that feels like an eruption of the more profound Sacred into the more commonplace landscape.  In the case of this woods, the topography and its Sugar Maples combined so that it was originally preserved because of a commercial use:
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I have been making pilgrimages to this woods for almost 20 years. To place your hands upon the trunks of the elders, to embrace them, is to be filled with a flow of energy so sublime and uplifting.   And for a moment you are a part of the tree itself, feeling its crown swaying in the Sky, and its roots firmly grounded in the Earth.

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Over the years, I have come to discover, one after another, many of the old giants had fallen to the ground. I still remember the great grief I felt the first time that I encountered one of the fallen Grandfathers. Though placing my hands upon him, his Spirit was still vibrantly alive; he spoke to me, and asked that I carry his energy to one of his sisters.

This one I encountered yesterday. It’s message…”Do not grieve for my departure, for though my individual energy is leaving this forest, it goes to rejoin the spirit of the Earth herself, to assist her in her rebirth.”

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The old giants, their numbers growing ever fewer, are scattered throughout the parcel. But nonetheless, the canopy of leaves woven together by the crowns of older and younger trees, remains thick enough so that in most places there is no understory of shrubs, plants, or invasive weeds.  But here and there the ground is carpeted with a multitude of Maple seedlings.  Only the Maples themselves fully know the mystery of why one patch of ground sprouts a new generation while other areas remain bare earth.
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But the future of this woods as a continuing legacy of the elder Sugar Maples seems assured, for there are many patches of these seedlings..
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one slightly older…
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and one slightly older…
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and one slightly older…
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and one slightly older…
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and one slightly older…
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and older..

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and older still…
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This woods holds a space for the sky in its heart…
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25 thoughts on “Scientific & Spiritual Areas

    • So pleased that the post touched you so deeply, Angelina. As I was writing it, I often thought of your California Redwoods with their great heights and astonishing ages. Which led me to an even deeper appreciation for the diveristy of ecosystems and the diveristy of energies that they hold. Warm blessings!

  1. What a beautiful, eloquent post. I feel much the same about our Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands. To walk beneath that ancient canopy imparts a magical feeling of connection to nature, and awe for the immense time scale of the life of the forest. Sadly it continues to shrink at the blades of the loggers. Fortunately some of it will survive in areas where the trucks cannot go. Pity there are so many places they can.

  2. Wonderful blog. thankyou so much. Regent’s Park in London, or a section of it, contains some very old trees. I like to think of them as sentinels, guarding Londinium as they have done over the centuries.

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