top of page
masthead (1).png

A Publication by Wild Earth Spiritual Community

Winter 2023

Editor's Note 

Dearest reader,

As the year comes to a close, we reflect on all of the times we’ve connected with nature, spirit, and each other in the woods of Carderock, Dayspring, and more. Through prose, poetry, photography, and art, we express what is on our hearts as we commune with this wild world.

From a story about a son’s special relationship to a tree, to an interview with a writer and wilderness guide, to poems about community and walking trails, in this issue of from the roots, we communicate our love for the natural world and all beings.

Every issue that I receive submissions, I am blown away by the creativity of this group. And every time I find myself at a gathering, there is a bit of magic that I can’t quite put into words. I hope the pieces in this issue evoke some of the magic we have created as a group, and find you winding down and enjoying time with loved ones.

I look forward to seeing what the new year will bring for Wild Earth. May it bring more community, wonder, awe, mystery, love, and beauty.

With much gratitude and love,

Alison Shapiro

Wild Earth

We seek to live in deeper relationship with Earth, Divine Presence and each other. We gather twice monthly in sacred, natural woodlands in the Metro DC area. We are a diverse, inclusive and inter-spiritual community. Our gatherings combine contemplative spiritual practices with songs and chants, drumming, silent wandering and fellowship. Our practices enhance and grow our commitment to Earth and Her Beings, informing the work we do individually and collectively in the outer world. If you would like to support this community and the continuation of our work, please consider donating here.

Mushrooms and Fungi
by Ellen White

A Boy and His Tree
by Rani George

This is a story about a special kind of love. The kind that can evolve between many different beings. 

There once was a young couple who lived in a sweet house and were expecting their first baby. They had waited a long time for this baby and were full of joy thinking about this blessing that was coming to them. Finally, the day arrived, and a precious baby boy was born. So many friends and family were rejoicing with them; bringing food and gifts and celebrating with them. One friend brought a very special gift, a small young tree to be planted in the yard. A living friend for the new little one. The friend and the couple found the perfect place and planted the new tree. The father and mother watered it and cared for it along with their son. They both grew well.

After some time, the couple was delighted to find out that they were to be blessed with another baby! They felt that with the family growing they needed to have a little more space for the family and for all the friends and family to gather. Many hours were spent seeking and they found a special new home. They thanked the first home and the land for sheltering and holding them and explained about the new little one coming. Everyone agreed but one little voice had something to say. It was the tree. He knew he was still meant to be the little boy’s companion and share life with him. He needed to go with them to the new home. Everyone agreed and the tree was lovingly dug up and replanted in a special place close to the house and to a peaceful garden. 

The years rolled by. Spring followed by Summer, Autumn, Winter and then Spring again. Both the tree and the young boy grew taller and stronger, and life was simple. As the boy and the tree grew older, life became more complex. There was so much to learn about the world, about themselves, and events that happened that were just part of Life.  One such event happened to the tree. During a storm, a much larger tree growing close by fell directly onto the tree. The force of the fall was very heavy on the still growing tree and one half of his branches were torn off.  In the years following, the tree continued to grow but with a distinct lean to one side. He was resilient and unique. He continued to bud tender green leaves in the Spring, bloom lovely pink flowers in the Summer, form small cherries in the Fall and fell leaves for the Winter year after year. Through each season, he held the boy in his heart.

Then came the day it was time for the young man to follow his calling in the world. His own unique way of being and sharing his love. The tree was very proud of having been there to watch the boy become a man and for supporting him all along. He knew that he had done a good job and perhaps he could rest a bit now while Life decided what came next.

 

The parents noticed that the tree was in a process of change. One by one his branches slowly began to lower themselves to the ground. They wondered if there was something they should be doing to support this dear beloved one. Finally, it became clear that what was needed was a showering of gratitude for all the love the tree had held for the boy. They began to do that and to find time to just be with the tree and listen for what was to come next. During one of those times, it became visible that the remaining limbs and the trunk had taken on the form of a dancer! It appeared to be dancing the joy of Life! The tree was joyfully celebrating the unique path that his beloved boy was on. He was in the perfect form for this time. He was asking for love and creativity to be flowing around him. The parents began to find symbols to grace the tree. First came a small owl for wisdom. Then, graceful chimes that filled the air with gentle tones of love and growth and curiosity with each little breeze. Next, a special statue of St. Francis was placed near the base. One by one little creatures were invited to play around the statue and the tree.

The process continues as space is given for more symbols to appear of the love of the tree for his boy…

Screen Shot 2023-12-08 at 2.23.12 PM.png

Sparrow is lying flat on his back, motionless, wings tucked and eyes closed, each spindly toe spread as if still gripping his favorite perching spot. I freeze mid-stride when I spot him through the glass.

Because I feel deeply the perils of my wild friends, thanks to our relentless destruction of their everything, I know that my floor-to-ceiling window has tricked my feathered friend into a head-on collision with what he thought was a clear path to the rest of his day. Hoping against the odds that Sparrow has only been knocked unconscious, I watch him from inside the house as the seconds, then minutes, creep by. 

Nothing.   

I rush to arrange a nest-towel inside the cardboard box that has been my orange cat’s favorite fort. Easing onto the balcony, I crouch down and roll sparrow into my cupped palm, He is cold against my warm skin and when I tap his beak, I can feel my shoulders sag. Holding my breath, I arrange him in a soft nest-towel and leave the box exactly where he fell. I check on him once an hour, but I pace the house between each peek at his tiny, still form. The knowing part of me already understands that there will be a ceremony today.    

It’s time for the ritual when Sun finally slides closest to west, perfectly positioned to welcome dusk. I know I’ve been nudged to the right place when I am drawn to the grassy area of the four elder pines, who have been my friends for decades. This space behind my home is one of Fox’s daily hunting routes. He crouches behind the firs’ dense, ground sweeping limbs, waiting for prey. Like the bird whose life has become death, my hope transitions as well. Now I envision Sparrow as a much-needed meal for the slyest of my wild comrades.

 

Already in love with Sparrow, I crouch in the damp grass and tuck him him a few inches from the trees. Sprinkling the bird with a pinch of dried sage from the small leather pouch I’ve brought with me, I am flooded with equal measures of heartache for him, and relief for Fox. This particular sage is sacred to me. I earned bringing it home from the sandstone canyons and red deserts of the southwest, where I once went deep into the backcountry to learn how to not die in the wild. 

My ritual is never the same twice, but the common thread is there. I offer this good medicine as an expression of the gratitude and sorrow I hold for all feral creatures. It’s my doing that today was his death day. He came to me for the rich, fatty sunflower seeds I put out, but misjudged his exit route. I always tell the truth on these occasions, so I own his tragedy. While I do not believe that rights erase wrongs, I know that offering him back to the natural world contributes to the balance, the flow I am so deeply connected to. 

Two sunrises and sunsets pass before Sparrow disappears from his resting spot. I lay in bed that third night, eyes closed, visualizing Fox working his route with that funny fast trot, unexpectedly coming across his next feed. I can feel the corners of my mouth lift into a grin at his good fortune and I wonder if he did the same. The passing of time would have naturally transitioned Sparrow’s form to nourishment for the soil and shallow-rooted pines, but I like the image of surprised, happy Fox better. 

The day I witnessed Fox make a kill, the fat gray squirrel ran for its life. Fox ran impossibly low to the ground, neck and nose extended straight out like a racehorse locked onto the finish line. Prey and predator disappeared into the elder pines. Two heart breaking, sickening screams. 

Silence. 

Fox trotting out of the firs, head high, the zippy squirrel dangling limply from clenched jaws. In the blink of my eye, squirrel became dead. I still don’t know how to feel about what I saw.

Aren’t we all on some kind of journey morphing from something to some other thing, life cycles predetermined and inevitable for the good of the bigger picture? A start and a finish on this plane of existence for each of us. Sometimes it feels like I have so much more experience with death than life and I forget I have also seen beginnings.

I met my nephew minutes after he arrived earth side. It surely had to have been a wild ride for that comically fat, fiery red baby with the cone-shaped head, so harshly separated from the tether of his warm, nourishing place. In my sister’s womb, he didn’t really have much to do but float around, holding his own hands and biding time. I knew two things the second I laid eyes on his bewildered face; I would fiercely love him for eternity and, he seemed stunned that he had become something other than Ryan-who-just-floats-around-in-the-dark-not-really-doing-much. It remains to be seen whether he will experience my change to death or I’ll experience his because beginnings, ends, and the mysterious in-betweens of it all aren’t mine to know. I’m ok with that. 

Chunks of bone and chalky ash in some oddly decorative box, death displayed on the mantle. Tombstones marking the location of a body, dead but still actively changing form, dissolving beneath our feet. Tufts of tawny fur still attached to weathered hide, half hidden in the fallen leaves of the forest as trees ready themselves for winter. It’s all part of the shifting loop that is every living thing’s destiny to eventually change into, to become, something Mother Nature needs or requires returned to her. 

I don’t know it yet, but in the coming months I will not lay eyes on Fox one single time. I will spend too much time waiting and watching, trying to tap into something, anything to intuit what has become of my stealth friend. Has Fox used up his alive time? Is he crumpled somewhere out of sight, muscle and flesh and bone becoming rich feed for the ground beneath him? It is confusing for me to acknowledge life spans for what they are, while I am only greedy for more time with Fox.

I don’t like these transitions. I just accept them, and I’ve come to see these goings-on as creating space for the something or someone that hasn’t happened to me yet. Like the tiny scarlet red ladybug I met yesterday. She was hanging out on a single blade of grass near the twin cedars I visit, and it was nature’s design that I be in that place, at that time, so I could crouch down to say hello. I took one single look at her perfect inky black spots and instantly become the girl that just fell wildly, happily in love with my new friend. It is a hard-earned evolution of soul that keeps me from even the slightest desire to know what the two of us, in our new friendship, may or may not become.

Interview with Kristopher Drummond

Becoming
by Susan Jill Mitchell

in community

by Maureen Young Ingram

be like trees
together
where 

reaching out is deeply rooted


seek one another
listen intently
lift the weaker other 
by holding tight


encircle each other
so that life’s necessities 
are shared


everyone grows 
together

Lace.jpg

There are Trails you Take –
a love poem for all who walk

by Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon

There are trails you take
with people you love,
In the backwoods
where the light is soft
in the hands of the trees.


Sometimes a worn path notices
a new foot bridge across a stream
fed by a late summer rain,
a bridge made by a limb
shrugged off at the end of a storm,
and waiting for us, waiting for us to cross


into the different meadow just beyond,
past the overgrown brush and scent of fading wild orchids.
I wonder if we walked until night fell
would the stars reach out to hold our lifted hands
and our faces then would dazzle with light?


We would be dusted with this memory,
this path we wandered into – and the moon folding in half above us.
I am going to take this trail with you,
walking without remembering the unkind world,


or orange mushrooms stuck to the wet rocks
beside the stream. And once crossed,
we are going into places unheard of, going together,


just listening to the sound of our boots
upon the wet grass
and our breath quietly singing – until a deer steps from broken timber,
to make us stop and live, for a moment,
in each other’s hearts.

Design for a Fountain
by Anne Barney

Transformation

by Anne Barney

I wake to a sunrise
that lights each leaf,
tiny hands
applauding


the start of day.
I want so much
to tell the world
of its own beauty,


to find the words
as fundamental
as rain, branch,
rock, soil.


It is all there
in front of me,
when I walk
to the mountain top,


when I paddle
the river,
when I fell
the sapling oak.


I divide it
into lengths
to fit my stove,
small round logs


I stack
for the future
to be transformed
from wood to warmth.


Such alchemy!
I am changing, too,
and know that one day
I will become


ash,
and my soul
will rise
out of the vale

to hover,
a memory,
made up
of moments such as these.

Lace
by Anne Barney

ROUGH SEAS 
by Susan Jill Mitchell

Salmon were running the July I took my dad’s ashes to Alaska. The sockeyes’ emerald heads and luminous red bodies were battered by their swim for ancestral spawning grounds. Skin split open by predator teeth and claws revealed gaping wounds so on display I could only take quick glances at the fish as they forced their way upstream, driven by a purpose far beyond their almost-over lives.

My dad fell hopelessly in love with the vastness and wild goings-on his first trip to the last frontier, where he mixed business with fishing the North Pacific’s deep waters. An unexpected lifelong friendship with a local charter captain was the connection my dad needed to heed the pull that never-to-be-tamed place had on him. His longing for mind-bending beauty and the taste of wild in the air ceaselessly called him back, so he did exactly that until old age and illness altered his course, robbing him of the ruggedness one requires for such adventures. 

Holgate Glacier is calving; letting loose house-size chunks of ice that free fall five hundred feet, smashing down into Aialik Bay’s dreamy aqua water with such force that the surf can only rise up in towering foam-tipped tidal waves. The sounds of what’s to come don’t lend themselves to any real timing of when Holgate’s invisible forward motion will create just the right instability the outward facing wall of snow pack needs to chunk off a motherlode. Ricochets of cracking, groaning, and thunderous booming lift my forearm hairs to attention. This sensation overload is equal doses mesmerizing and eerie. Forehead crinkled, mouth hanging wide open, I am suspended in this perplexed expression, motionless and lost in the beauty of this visceral natural display.

Sculpture
by Anne Barney

The Wind's Yearning
by Anne Barney

Tree:

I’ve got too much wind in my hair,

I’ve got

too much wind in my hair,

and I’m running my fingers

all through it

and everything’s all tangled up.

 

It’s a force beyond my control,

a force

from out of the blue,

and I feel it running

all through me,

and everything’s all tangled up.

 

Wind:

I’m here to shake down

everything

you just keep holding on to,

dried-up, withered beliefs,

everything

holding you back,

 

back from where

I can take you

if only you will let me.

Let me please uproot you,

let me take you,

and make you forget

 

how you wanted

to stay in one place,

how you wanted

only soft breezes,

how you really didn’t know

what you wanted.

 

I tell you,

you don’t know

how much you want me,

you don’t know

how much you really want

too much wind in your hair.

Shades of Gold
by Anne Barney

Cycles and Circles
by Al Larsen

0991DD96-5755-42B0-AFD8-798B8EA4C623.jpeg

Leaves, mostly brown, mostly down.
Some still clinging to branches, where incipient buds tease emergence.
Life to death to rebirth.
Light to dark to relight.
Cycle, circles, and perhaps insight.


In the woods, in late autumn, beside a familiar and peaceful river,
with chilly air contrasted by the scant warmth of low angled sunlight.
Contemplating life and spirit
via sight (visions real and conjured), thought (lyrics) and vibration (melodies)
especially the melodies, the vibrations of melodies
gently but inexorably carried me to arrive here:

Peaceful Waters
by Gordon Lightfoot


The dead leaves of autumn
That cling so desperately
Must fly before the cold October winds
Their simple lives have ended
Must they be born to die again

 
Oh may the light of freedom shine
For all the world to see
And peace and joy to all mankind
Through all the years to be

 
For soon the leaves will die
And the long hard wind will blow
May this world find a resting place 
Where the peaceful waters flow

from the roots

published when birthed.

Editor-in-Chief

Alison Shapiro

Cover Image

The masthead image behind the words “from the roots” is a photograph of the roots of a fallen Sequoia tree in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. The fallen tree was over 1,000 years old. Photo by Kenzie Raulin.

Wild Earth Spiritual Community

We strive for participant-centered leadership.

WILD GUIDES

Kenzie Raulin, Alison Shapiro, Amy Moffitt, Laurie Wevers, Jim Hall, Hank Langknecht

Gather via zoom or in person every three months to plan next three months.

ADVISORS

Wild Guides plus Ginge Sivigny, Jon Nowick, Pauline Siple, Ray Martin, Jane Pittman

Once/year gathering for review of WE including finances

 

VISION KEEPERS

Hank Langknecht, Jim Hall, Sarah Anders

Monthly review and thoughts on gatherings and themes

 

APPRENTICE

Alison Shapiro

 

NATURE GUIDE

Marney Bruce

 

Review all after one year.


Photo by Al Larsen


Photo by Al Larsen

bottom of page