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Experiencing God in The Forest: A Feast for the Soul

We invite you to savor this reflection slowly, as an Ignatian contemplation, entering into the scene with all of your senses.



Guest post by Dotty Hendren


Recently I had an experience that brought together many of the themes I have been praying

with and practicing from the Exercises of St. Ignatius – themes of connectedness with our

Father and His creation, community with all people, resurrection, renewal, and a way of being

that includes openness and awareness, making it possible to receive all the gifts He wants to

give me. All of these practices have contributed to my intimacy with the Trinity, and by His

transforming grace, He is helping me discover Him daily, in the ordinary circumstances of my

life.


I spent five days in July in Olympic National Park with my daughter Sara, hiking, kayaking, talking

and enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest – the ocean, mountains, clear lakes and majestic forests. The highlight of our trip was hiking the Marymere Falls Trail.


Marymere Falls Trail winds through an Old-Growth Forest, a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance. Old Growth forests, also called primary forests, virgin forests, or mature forests, are naturally regenerated forests of native tree species where there are few indications of human activity. They have never been logged, have multi-layered canopies, and the trees greatly vary in height, diameter and species. Hiking there was my first experience in this kind of forest.


Under the tallest trees smaller trees grow, some of them similar in shape to the trees seen in Dr. Seuss books, some of them covered in moss. Taller trees provide shade for smaller trees and moss, and plants, and the moss protects the tree trunks from insects and disease. The forest floor is completely carpeted with giant, dark green ferns. When a tree or branch dies, or falls due to wind or weather, it is left where it lands. If it falls across the trail, the section obstructing the path is cut out, leaving the rest of the tree untouched. Over time the dead trunks disintegrate and provide a rich environment for seeds and spores to germinate and grow into new trees, new ferns and plants of all kinds. Because almost nothing is moved, the forest forms as an unexpected and interesting architectural canvas, trunks and branches crossing one another, a myriad of angles and shapes, uniquely beautiful.


As we walked the trail we came upon a 90- foot waterfall, gushing an abundance of clear water to the forest floor, providing, along with the soil and sun, everything the plants need. The forest exists as it was created, growing according to its nature, the trees allowed to be what they were created to be, old or young, tall or short, in harmony with all the other trees and plants, standing or lying on the ground, all together a verdant, growing, thriving place, living under God’s watch, in His care – silent, still, undisturbed.


I wish I could have spent more time there in solitude, just being with the Spirit. His presence and ways were clearly seen. The forest is more than a feast for the eyes, more than a place to only walk through and look at. It is more a feast for the soul, where the silent voice of God speaks and His great desire to reveal Himself in all His beauty and loving care is experienced. It is a presence, a knowing that all creation was meant to thrive together, to live rooted in the love of God, surrendered to what is given at any moment, sustained by the Father of all creation.


 

This author, Dotty Hendren, chose to be fully present to and enter into this experience with every part of her being.


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