Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nostos felicis: a homecoming

When the massive red cedar fell alongside the forest trail, it must have been a thunderous landing. The old tree had spilt lengthwise for about ten feet, and the path beside the tree dipped downhill below that split in such a way that, if you wanted to, you could duck your head and step right inside the embrace of the old giant. Morning rain had turned the revealed wood within the tree a red so bright and fresh that it nearly glowed. 

The family had already passed the fallen tree as they'd walked down the trail; now, on their return, they could see the legs of people who had accepted the tree's invitation, and stepped inside. And as the family came closer, they saw that there were more than a dozen people standing within the tree, clustered together. 

What were they doing?

When we ducked out of the tree, wiping our eyes, we found a family regarding us with some curiosity. We greeted them but didn't explain ourselves ...  we'd been saying goodbye to a baby we love. He had been born too early, and terribly sick, and we had been looking for a good place in this forest to consign his spirit. His mothers had chosen this old tree for a ceremony of remembrance; it was a place that would nourish the forest and would grow new baby trees.

And so we stepped inside the tree for a brief and sweet and mostly impromptu ceremony, giving baby Felix over to this tree (and the black bear and the salmon, and the maidenhair fern, and the flying squirrel, and...). Ralph sang a song for him, and for us, that ended with the words May your spirit be ancient and enduring.

A giant tree that had lived for centuries and a baby who was too tiny to live more than fifteen days. There are some griefs and sadnessesand some miraclesthat only a forest can hold. 
by ChibiJosh


  1. Such a lovely and heartbreaking post. Those mingled cells are the ancient and future stories of our earth.

  2. What a beautiful tribute, Pat. You fully captured the feeling of the ceremony to celebrate little Felix's too-short life. From now on, every time I go past that tree, I will look for those new little seedlings.

  3. A lovely tribute to a special child and the majestic life of an ancient tree. Beautiful.

  4. I was not sure if the baby was animal or human but the loving gesture was touching.

  5. We need ceremony to contain the rough edges of our hard emotions. How wonderful to be able to create such a perfect one. Hugs and prayers for those who lost little Felix. Hallie's tattoo has wonderful layers of meaning.