Powerful Lessons from the Forest

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2016 by Ann Linnea

The North Cascade mountains of Washington state are a testament to the juxtaposition of life and death. They normalize the presence of death, the surprise of death, and the essential nature of death.


Storm-downed trees in Sulphur Creek

Storm-downed trees in Sulphur Creek

Like many people who have lost a loved one “before their time”, I must constantly work to make peace with my son’s death at age 33. For me that takes the form of an inner convincing that Brian might not have lived as long as any of us would have liked, but he did live a full life.

Camping on the Suiattle River drainage and hiking into the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area every day during a week of late summer weather and five days alone, I found myself in wildly rugged terrain with roaring creeks, dense underbrush, and towering giants. These giants have names like western red cedar, western hemlock, and Douglas fir. They reach hundreds of feet high and are so massive that it can take 8-10 people with outstretched arms to encircle their trunks.


Glacier Peak and the Suiattle River Drainage

Glacier Peak and the Suiattle River Drainage









Day after day, step after step, I walked trails like Sulphur Creek or Downey Creek. These forests are cathedrals of dappled sunlight, musical creeks, and extraordinary silence. And they are full of life’s lessons.


A trail through the old ones

A trail through the old ones

A huge wind storm can randomly knock down one of these giants—seemingly in its prime. Gravity on these steep slopes is relentless and carries the tree to an uneasy resting place. New seedlings spring up to seek the light created by the new opening. The tree itself becomes a nurse log that decays and provides sustenance for the next generation.


Over and over and over again this lesson presented itself to me. Life and death live side by side. This is normal. Death is often a surprise—a sudden wind, a landslide. And without death there could not be new life.


New life springs up all around the fallen

New life springs up all around the fallen

Because I was hiking and camping alone, there were few words to distract me from my immersion into these truths. A carpet of young Douglas fir seedlings rising up next to a fallen giant, reminded me of the fine young men and women who have received the paramedic scholarship we established in Brian’s name in 2014.

my solo camp

my solo camp

My tears bubbled up as naturally as the creeks and springs the Cascades are named for. I don’t have words, really, for the stunning nature of healing I received last month on my pilgrimage to the forests of my homeland. I just know that I have a better “long view” perspective and Brian’s spirit rests more easily now in my heart.


Glacier Peak from the Green Mountain Trail

Glacier Peak from the Green Mountain Trail

10 responses to “Powerful Lessons from the Forest”

  1. Barbara Joy Laffey says:

    Blessings Ann. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your truth.

  2. Linette says:

    Ann, I am so glad the forest and trees continue to provide life sustaining lessons for you.
    It was so moving reading this series of profound metaphors.
    All my love, from the other side of the planet, LinetteXOXOX

  3. Ann,
    Beautiful and so thought provoking. Thank you and bless you my dear friend.

  4. Meredith Jordan says:

    Beautiful analogy, Ann, and comforting to all of us who have lost loved ones, young and old. In one sense, it’s never “their time,” and in another, it’s always time. Much love to you!

  5. Alison Bremner says:

    This is a beautiful share. I’m glad for you Ann.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Ann, thanks from the bottom of my heart for sharing this story. And many thanks to the trees for their continuous giving of peace/consolation. You are so wise to listen to their whispers. You have taught me this for which I am deeply grateful. Truly a valuable tool while traversing our way through this time on the earth.

  7. Bonnie Marsh says:

    Annie, how beautiful, and what a great tribute to Brian. He would want you to have resolution in this way. Much love to you.

  8. Jeanie Robinson says:

    Ann, the gift of your words and pictures are a healing balm to all of us. Thank you for conveying these comforting messages from the trees. Love back to you.

  9. Ah, Ann, your tender words touch my soul along the many that have been offered here. Thank you for your example of continuing to renew and begin again. Thank you for the ways your writings encourage me to continue writing. I am singing and dancing and bowing to the trees in my back yard which has become a forest bed in which to walk and ponder.

  10. Jude Rathburn says:

    Dear Ann –

    What an awesome tribute to Brian and the sacredness of the earthly dance of life and death. I am grateful that you had this time of healing and know the earth will continue to share her blessings with you. Much love to you.


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