PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
December 2018


Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,

In the northern hemisphere we are approaching the shortest day of the year. Darkness comes around 4:30 p.m. on Whidbey Island. We try to get outdoors for some part of the day – to see the light slanting through the trees, the frost crystals on the ground or the raindrops dripping from the evergreen branches, and the silhouettes of birds in the leafless trees. And we look forward to the Solstice and the gradual return of the light.

The Unseen World Around Us 

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

There is more to life than meets the eye. This old saying is true about almost everything – news, interactions with others, nature. As we enter the last month of the calendar year, we invite all of us to bring renewed alertness to the unseen world around us.

In the busy-ness of holidays and year-ending details, we trust that something “beyond our eye” is holding the world together. And where we are most reassured of this phenomenon is walking around our island nature landscape.

In the forests around our home it is the wet, green, mushroom time of the year. It is remarkable to walk familiar trails and see evidence of the underground world that most of the year is invisible to us. The fruiting bodies we call mushrooms are connected to a vast underground of mycelium, the worker bees of the forest.

Recent years have unlocked truths about the mostly unseen life of the forest. Mycologists (people who study mushrooms) like Paul Stamets have uncovered remarkable properties and capabilities of mushrooms. Forest biologists like Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) and Dr. Suzanne Simard, University of British Columbia, (whose TED talk on How Trees Talk to Each Other has been viewed over 3 million times) are helping us “see” that forests are complex organisms with as much going on underground as above ground.

Walking in our nearby state park this time of the year, we feel held by the varied greens of cedar, hemlock, and fir trees. The leaves of the alder and big leaf maple  are all down now, composting themselves atop the duff of conifer needles and cones. And everywhere, everywhere the mushrooms are coming to life! Puffballs, jelly fungus, false morels and dozens we cannot identify.

When we feel discouraged by all the chaos in the human world, these little brown, orange, white and even red characters popping up in the forest remind us that there is more than meets our tired eyes! “Mushroom up” we say: believe that what really holds the world together are millions of tiny, barely noticed, interconnected actions outside the news stream and any form of social media that isn’t grounded in dirt.

We can be mushrooms. We can practice interconnection. We can trust that every gesture toward good, toward healing, toward helping one another contributes to the life of the forest overall.

Around this holiday time, notice who is reaching out and follow your impulses to reach back. Interact with kindness. Call a family circle at your holiday table. Participate in a cause you have been watching and appreciating – even just a donation. Trust your mycelium threads to send good energy back to those you know or out to someone else around you. Stay in the weave.

We each make a difference in the world. Believe that every gesture has the possibility to contribute to strengthening the unseen world that holds everything together.

Powerful changes are constantly occuring, challenging the visible world around us: the underground world needs our “little” actions. We, the ordinary people who do not make the news, are holding the soil of the forest together.

Blessings on your sense of holy days, however you celebrate this time of year!