The Medicine in Living Things


My whole life, I’ve found peace in the woods. When I was a kid, we went every Sunday until it was too snowy to go. When i was in college, while most people partied, I went to bed early so that I could get up early to explore the mountains.  I never could understand why someone would want to spend part of their day in bed—but then again, I chose my school based on the location, not for education. On summers home from college i worked for state parks by day and hiked alone most evenings. Those summers were spent with lonely hours by day, and the mountains made me feel at home. When i moved back to my hometown to teach, i spent non-working moments on trails talking to trees.


No really. I actually talked with trees. And listening to them. Not with a language that requires words, but one just as important, maybe more important because it was life giving.

Even still, no matter how hard the hurt my heart may carry, if i go to the woods, i feel the plants bringing peace to me. It’s as if the life around me–the plants and trees feel whatever is broken inside of me, and move to mend it and make right my heart. Mountains are Medicine.


But it’s been years since a trail was a ten minute drive. So I’ve been forced to pay attention to what i might have once ignored. Trees in city parks. Violets and dandelions popping up in cracks in the sidewalks and boulevards. Tansy mustard and mullein leaves in open prairie fields. And I’m coming to see that even unharvested, these too are medicines. There may be more distraction around with city streets or suburban sounds, but the spirit still exists—i think—-waiting to be noticed by us. And maybe when we make that connection—we save pieces of ourselves and are also more willing to save places that hold living things—because they give us life—and because they have their own innate life that’s worth protecting. It’s easy to look at  what we’ve done to our planet and think humans have not much good to offer to any species but our own, but I see things differently. I feel it in my heart ❤


Perhaps this poem says it best:

“When i Am among the Trees”

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees, 

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines, 

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment, 

and never hurry through the world 

but walk slowly, and bow often. 

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,”

they say, “and you, too, have come

into the world to do this, to go easy,

to be filled with light, and to shine.”


Do you too feel the peace of wild things?

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