The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Sustainable Living

The Mystery of the Stumps and The Spiral Path: A Story of How I Became A Druid November 7, 2012

I’ve had a few blog readers ask about how I ended up my path of sustainability and druidry.  I wanted to post about that here, in the hopes that my story will help others find their own paths as well.  There’s a few different stands to this tale, and not all are easy to unravel.  So I’ll start at the beginning.

My family moved to a home on the top of a mountain in the rural mountains of western Pennsylvania, overlooking a

The druid in the forest to which she belongs!

The druid in the forest to which she belongs!

massive forest, when I was seven years old.  Almost immediately, my cousins (who lived next door) and I began tromping about in the woods.  We built cabins with fallen branches, ferns, stones, and bark,  explored everything, and spent much of our time building water dams in the little crick.  Every summer day for years and years we spent in these beloved woods.  Every fall, spring, and winter day, after school or on breaks, we would enjoy the changing of the seasons. Spending so much time in the forest attuned me to the land, the seasons.  As I grew, I formed this wonderful friendship with the forest, whom I now refer to as “the forest to which I belong.”

There was one mystery to the woods my cousins and I had not figured out—something we often discussed.  All through the woods, these giant rotting stumps could be found everywhere.  Many of the moss-coated stumps were massive—at least double the size of the current trees growing. The stumps were black with age and almost entirely or mostly rotted down—when you touched them, they would fall apart.  As kids, we came up with all sorts of reasons that the stumps were there—aliens came and placed them there as a signal, a fire had burned much of the forest, or perhaps a tornado had come and ripped out many of the trees.  The one conclusion that we didn’t even fathom was that they were trees had been cut by human hands.  Was it childish innocence?  Was it naivety?  The thought that someone would do such a thing never crossed our minds.  When we built cabins, we never cut or damaged the trees—not even to put nails in them.  We used only fallen branches in our constructions.  So it is no wonder that the one solution to the mystery—the correct one—had never occurred to us.  Yet this “mystery” was soon revealed to us in full force.

When I was 14, everything changed. We heard the loggers before we ever saw them.  Noises came from below—the sound of trucks, saws, and the occasional crash.  At first it was barely noticeable, but after a few weeks, they were literally at our doorstep and our parents no longer let us into the forest. We watched with horror from atop the mountain—down below where our beloved woods were literally being torn apart by uncaring loggers.  I remember laying in the tall grass behind the house and crying—I couldn’t understand what could possesses someone to destroy something that I so fondly cherished and respected.  My friends were being mercilessly cut down.

After the loggers finished their dastardly deed, I went into the forest only once, in the months after it happened.  The pain was too much.  This was also a time in my life where repressed memories of trauma in my childhood surfaced–as the forest was cut, my memories returned and I suffered much anguish.  The forest and I shared in our pain.  After that day, I did not step again into the forest for 10 years; I could not bear the pain.

Mixed Media piece I finished a few years ago after a very meaningful spirit journey into the forest to which I belong.  I "liberated" a rusty chainsaw from my forest that was logged and regrew.  That chainsaw formed the basis of my story of peace and healing.

Mixed Media piece I finished a few years ago after a very meaningful spirit journey into the forest to which I belong. I “liberated” a rusty chainsaw from my forest that was logged and regrew. That chainsaw formed the basis of my story of peace and healing.

Ten years later, I took my best friend, Alfred, who was dying of a terminal brain tumor into that forest.  I shared with him the story of it, and we discovered together that while the forest was difficult to traverse due to the left-over branches and understory, it was also slowly healing and new growth could be found everywhere. But it seemed so changed, so different and wild compared to the forest I knew as a child. It gave us both hope about Alfred’s condition.  Unfortunately, my friend lost his battle with cancer a year and a half later.  Before anyone else knew he died, his spirit visited me, and I knew he was gone.  This, combined with the lesson of healing the forest provided me, lead me on a spiritual quest to better understand….well….everything.

After much reading, reflection, and soul-searching after Alfred’s death, I found druidry and knew that it was like I was coming home.  Druidry was a term that  described who I was as a human being in the many different spheres of my life: my connection to the land, to the spirit realm, to my professional career, to my home life, and to my creative pursuits.

Once I started down the path of Druidry, I again sought the voice of the forest where I had spent so much time as a child, where I had watched firsthand the destruction of the land at the hand of humans who couldn’t see its spirit and life for what it was.  The forest had transformed, healed, magically and physically, back into the space I had once knew.  Her scars were still there, the stumps from what had been logged, but she was strong, her gentle persistence in reclaiming what was lost taught me so much about my own loss and trauma–and how I might heal.  After those experiences, I found myself particularly sensitive to the spirits of the land, especially the spirits of the trees–their joys and suffering–and was called to physically and spiritually heal the land.  And that’s a primary part of my spiritual practice–serving as a healer of the land, working with the spirits of the living and the dead, and assisting them on their journey as they assist me on mine.  Wherever I go, the land reaches out to me, and I reach out to the land; we grow and learn from each other. And this work doesn’t apply just to natural places; the land is everywhere, even in urban areas and under concrete, she still calls out to her own.

At the same time as I was discovering druidry, I also recognized the need to radically shift my lifestyle–how could I call myself a druid if I, like most Americans, was living in an unsustainable, environmentally-damaging manner?  And so, with dedicated effort, I began making permanent changes in my life.  I learned about permaculture, sustainability, and deep ecology, and embraced those principles as a central life philosophy.  I take every opportunity to learn, to teach, to grow, and to help preserve. I joined two druid orders to help me along my path–their spiritual lessons taught me much about the long-standing spiritual traditions of nature reverence.  This blog is a story of that path–thank you for joining me on my journey.

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9 Responses to “The Mystery of the Stumps and The Spiral Path: A Story of How I Became A Druid”

  1. Gwernen Says:

    Beautifully told. I was working as a journalist when I was told by the Road Commissioner that certain old trees were considered hazards because they were beside the road. Apparently, if someone is drunk and hits a tree twenty feet off the road, they can sue the road commission. Nonsense, I said, the reason people move here is because of the area’s natural beauty. His reply was, “Oh, you’ll never remember those trees anyway…” I quoted him in the paper. Now, twenty four years later, I still drive by the site of those two ancient spruce and remember them, vividly, all the moreso from his flippant remark. Is remembering them helping to heal the land at that spot? I can’t say. But every time I plant a spruce sapling, I promise them they are far enough from the road.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      I remember an old apple tree we spent so much time in as a child. The apple tree was so old, she had different parts, like “rooms” that we would climb in; the living room, the cage (which was where you would sit with branches all around), the bedroom, etc. We would eat her apples, which were tart and delicious.

      Then the neighbor one day bought the property, and turned it into a “proper” consuming lawn. He took a chain saw to that beloved apple tree. When I was doing my OBOD Ovate work, she came to me and helped me on a journey. And I think of her often, even still.

      I remember lost trees like family members.

  2. Judy Says:

    Back in the 1970’s, when I was in college, we saved the woods near U of M Dearborn. We were called The Citizens for Henry Ford’s Wildlife Preserve. We settled, out of court, with The Ford Motor Company Land Development Corporation – a major victory! (They are the ones who had previously channeled part of the Rouge River in Dearborn, giving the river cement sides.). They said the trees are saved forever. But I still hold my breath when I come around the corner of Evergreen Rd and Hubbard Dr. The area behind the University along the banks of the Rouge River are also included. So, in the midst of Dearborn,there lies a Beech-Maple climax forest.

    I don’t think that I really realized what greatness we had accomplished at the time. The process took so long, and we were hoping to go to court. So it seemed anti-climactic. But it wasn’t!

    Thanks for helping me remember a good time.

  3. Beautifully said. Thanks for sharing your insight! Druidry was like a homecoming for me, as well.

  4. Fi Says:

    Hi Willowcrow,i have just found your wonderful site,i am a Druid living in Waiheke Island New Zealand i to have a small farm 10 acres bush(forest) 5 acres pasture developing the land in much the same spirit as you,sunshine and smiles Fi from Waiheke

  5. Patricia (Patsy) Twomey Youth and Community Work UCC Says:

    In Ireland, a few years ago, a local council was building a roadway but in order to do so would have had to cut down a Hawthorn tree. Now, people in Ireland do not cut down Hawthorn trees and a local folklorist and wonderful storyteller, Eddie Lenihan, started a campaign. Low and behold, the council had to build a roundabout around the Hawthorn tree. Look up http://www.eddielenihan.net


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