by Sister Hướng Nghiêm
In June, the Deer Park monastic sangha visited the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Here I share some of my experiences walking through this ancient forest.
The redwoods are so tall. They sway and give oxygen every day for us below. I feel strength and joy in my lungs.
I focus on a single redwood, 400-500 years old and imagine 20 people embracing it. Looking up at other trees I say hello to them. They are tall, strong, large, and they sway as I stand on my two feet, my two eyes taking them in. I feel so much younger than the trees. They are my ancestors and have been alive for many centuries. Now they stand before me. With love in my heart, I say hello and embrace them. The trees really save people who visit. They are our country.
I walk through the forest early in the morning, silently but without fear. I am not alone. There is no discrimination. My heart is open. I am one with nature. I smile, breathe, and treasure every step.
The trees make a sound, very soft, light, and calm, but strong.
I lay down to relax and listen to the music of the trees. I smile as Mother Earth welcomes and embraces me, and the tree sings to me. My eyes close like a baby. I lay down hand-in-hand with my mother, the Earth.
Sangha Body, Sangha Tree
On the trail, I realize that the forest has a sangha nature. The trees sway high up. They are present, and my monastic brothers and sisters are also present. I look at a tree and see that it reflects myself in the sangha.
The forest is large. Each tree is big but has its own space to grow up to the sky. The trees have hands and they blanket their trunks with thousands of leaves.
The sangha takes refuge under a tree. We take a picture together—we on our two feet—, laughing and going as a river along the trail. The roots of the trees are there to protect us in the forest.
Every small tree and leaf we see in the forest smiles to us with humility. I kneel down to say hello to them, and the light opens more windows for me to create a picture.
I touch the earth to be one with the sangha body and sangha tree. It is a joyous moment, and I am filled with awareness that the tree is just a manifestation. There is only this moment, in a redwood forest.