His-shuk-nish-tsa-waak

Trees remind us how busy and unstable we are, and how ridiculous that is.
—Rebecca Solnit

Look at this for a moment and soak up the peace of this place:

•e-IMG_0920-RDS forest stair

Boardwalk to Schooner Cove, Pacific Rim National Park

Imagine walking that boardwalk through all that green. This is what Dick and I did for five days in Tofino, British Columbia. Greengreengreen—Kermit would love it because this place makes it look as if it really is easy being green. Every shade of verde you can imagine. Which makes sense when you realize that it rains something like 128 inches annually. Compare that to Sacramento, which had the fourth wettest winter on record this past year—a whopping 32.5 inches of rain. Our natural colors run to, well, golden. That’s one of the reasons we drive north to experience a place where colors are so saturated.

•e-IMG_0923-forest green

Green is what happens when rain falls pretty much daily. Which was why it was weird that we were in Tofino for six days, and we only saw rain overnight, briefly. Perhaps it was because the entire west coast of our continent has been experiencing a heat wave. But that one night when rain fell, it seemed that… whew!… all was right with the world.

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Nurse log, Schooner Cove boardwalk, Pacific Rim National Park

I am continually lifted by what is evident everywhere in the forest: Life comes from death. The photo above shows a stunning example of a nurse log—a downed tree, which, once horizontal, becomes a platform for new growth, the new tree growing out of it wrapping its roots around its life-giving ancestor. No one has set this up or created the conditions to make this happen; it just does. Chalk that up to nature or god or forest fairies, but I cannot help but marvel over the miracle of regeneration. I experience it myself as my fingernails and toenails and hair grow, as we age and change and, yes, die. But look what comes along afterward—dying plant matter becomes detritus and nourishes the shoots of new ferns and trees and all that green. The forests of this planet do this daily, over and over, which is one reason to protect them. They show us how to live, act as our teachers reminding us to care for one another.

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All manner of green thrives in Tofino.

This gives me hope for a planet with too many people who seem bent on destroying it through willful overuse or destruction or insistence that we don’t have to be mindful of these natural resources. Here at the tip of this peninsula of Tofino, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations people, whose ancestors have been here for literally thousands of years, manage a great deal of the land and share their great reverence for the earth with everyone. Their philosophy:

His-shuk-nish-tsa-waak
(we are all one)

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And, standing in the middle of such a grand forest, listening to birds and breeze murmuring through trees (susurrus!), I feel it deeply: We are all one.

I stand next to a massive tree that someone later tells us has been estimated to be 2,000 years old. Some of us live long lives; others don’t. Still: We are all one.

I look up, see sky and clouds; I imagine looking down on the tallest residents. Under this great canopy, green flourishes and shelters. It whispers: Yes.

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About janishaag

Writer, writing teacher, editor
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6 Responses to His-shuk-nish-tsa-waak

  1. Kathryn Hohlwein says:

    Utterly beautiful, in every way. I needed this. Wish I could study that tree enveloping its ancestor.

  2. buzzardnotes says:

    Thank you, Jan, for renewing me with this tribute to His-shuk-nish-tsawaak. I need to be reminded of that every so often and your tribute to this philosophy did that for me. Hugs, Cora

  3. Annie says:

    Simply a joy to read, Jan.

  4. Hilary A says:

    Your SUSURRUS! Dick and you=Ying, yang, balanced, creative, and inspiring! Thank you! Love!

  5. Deja says:

    Stunningly beautiful and delightful to read💖

  6. Carolyn Ralston says:

    Thanks for this soothing yet energizing Tofino forest journey. Did my heart good: literally: blood pressure dropped.

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