I have a gratitude practice in my life. Every morning I wake up and while I am still in bed I bring to mind all that I am grateful for including my teachers, loved ones, my lovely cabin, good air, beauty, wonderful food and the fact that all my organs work. There is great power in Gratitude. My life is changed because of my practice. Gratitude by one person is powerful, but when many of us come together in ceremony to express our gratitude, it is immensely potent.
In so many traditions, gratitude is about closing a loop. Nature gives to us great gifts and our unique role as humans is to express our gratitude. We are the only species that can do this in an ritualized way (that I know about).
All over our beautiful Earth, legends foretell that our precious relations in nature will cease to exist when humans stop honoring, celebrating and caring for them. Embedded in this world view is that we must follow Nature’s three R’s – Respect, Reciprocity, Relationship. Ceremonies that honor the earth demonstrate respect, create a relationship and reciprocate the gifts we receive. It is this relationship that ultimately instructs our sustainable management of our resources because these celebrations reorient our hearts and minds to a place of belonging within the web of life. When we act from this place, we can only act in a way that mutually benefits ourselves and our relations in nature. When we change our relationship to nature, we change how we impact our environment.
Conversely, our loss of connection to the natural world is creating a downward spiral of alienation, violence and ecological destruction. The present ailing state of California oak lands illustrates this downward spiral. However, oaks also have mighty potential to illustrate how we can shift these negative patterns and heal the land, our culture and psyches.
Oaks are essential actors in our landscapes. They are keystone species, which means that most members of the oak ecosystem are disproportionately dependent upon them. If you take away the oaks everyone and everything goes down hill including the soil and water quality. Yet, Californians routinely destroy vital oak habitats for development and agriculture. Additionally, since 1990, more than a million oak and tanoak trees have died from Sudden Oak Death (SOD) and at least another million trees are currently infected.
The majority of Indigenous Californians took part in acorn ceremonies that honored the oaks and celebrated the acorn crop. From the Indigenous perspective, the relationship between humans and oaks is fully reciprocal – our love, care and appreciation for our oaks is returned by their gratitude in the form of bountiful food, shelter, tools and spiritual connection.
It’s time to bring back the oak ceremonies. We need them. The oaks need them and so do the bear, bobcats, acorn woodpeckers, mountain lions, Golden eagles, golden mantle squirrels, chanterelles, salmon and so many more of our Relations. Come join us on October 25 for our second annual Mount Tam Oak ceremony and weave yourself into the web of life for benefit of all beings.
Go Wild Institute envisions that future generations of Californians will look to our oak landscapes and feel a sense of belonging, inspiration and nourishment. We strive to develop integrated, holistic community-based land restoration projects that feed our bodies, minds and spirits.