Spiritual Resilience & The Pine Tree – Special Edition of Report From The Back 40

Here is my blog on spiritual resilience and the pine tree.

Spiritual resilience – an interesting concept. Here’s my view. Nature shows us how it’s done.

The pine tree is an ancient tree whose lineage dates clear back to the time when the first reptiles appeared toward the end of the Permian era 280 million years ago. This tree is referred to as a gymnosperm (“naked seed”) because of its reproductive organs, with the most evolved flowering parts of all the plants prior to the emergence of angiosperms, or the flowering plants with which we are so familiar today – from the tiny duckweed to the amazing orchids. Pine trees serve earth and so many animals well. They are living carbon sinks, storing carbon for many years indeed, with the longest known living pine tree estimated at 4600 years old!

There are all kinds of facts and figures about pine trees, but here is what they teach me. The phoenixes of the plant world, they are born amid fire. In fact, some pine tree species require fire to regenerate.

There are a few conifer pine tree species, Jack Pine, Table Mountain Pine, Lodgepole Pine, among others, that have what is referred to as a serotinous cone – a special version of the pine cone, in my humble opinion, though the pine cone is a remarkable creation anyway. That word ‘serotinous’ is a term for a seed that requires a specific environmental trigger in order to release. These pine trees grow in dry, rocky sites and the cones are tightly closed, holding the tiny delicate seeds within them safe, until just the right moment. Here’s where the spiritual resilience part comes in: these pine cones require VERY high temperatures in order for the cones to open and allow the seeds to disperse. So the not-so-lowly pine cone expends all of this energy to grow a fertilized egg, nurture and protect it, and then must face what would seem to be complete and utter destruction of that which it protected in order for that seed to be ‘reborn’ into the world – literally out of the fire. And Jack Pine cones are quite small. One would think that a hot fire would just incinerate these on the spot. A magnificent example of ‘the dark before the dawn’ and what spiritual resilience looks like from the viewpoint of a pine tree.

Pine trees grow in communities. Each individual seedling must find a spot where there is enough sunlight to grow, but since so many of them come alive as a result of sweeping fires, and thrive as a result of fire’s after affects, they often sprout up together. When you add the community interconnected mycelium threads living in the soil to the collection of trees themselves, one begins to get a closer look at how the web of life weaves its magic throughout the whole system. Then add in all of the animals that feast of pine pollen (rich in protein), pine nuts (protein and fats), pine needles (high in vitamins C, B and a source of minerals), and the incredible habitat that the tree itself provides for birds, squirrels, and other tree dwellers, one gets an even bigger sense of the wonder that the pine tree brings to bear. So, community, protection (both in the larger sense of planetary environmental stability and in the sense of the more local strengths of just plain sticking together as a group), and sustenance in the form of food. Then there is the lovely soft insulating value of the spent pine needle. Remember how softly your foot falls on a path strewn with pine needles? And what of the heavenly scent wafting through the air in the pine forest? Lastly, though I doubt it is my last word on the subject, the evergreen speaks to me of a soul, albeit the soul of a tree being, forever connected to its heart. It is of a constant green after all. The pine tree certainly has every right to be a symbol of the birth of the Light and the essence of this time of year.

From the human perspective, this is my riff on the matter. To have spiritual resilience is to walk – steadfastly or with teetering, skittering baby steps, however one can – through one’s own darkness, and survive to reach the light, where a thriving life reveals itself. To be willing to sit curiously in one’s darkness and allow it to be what it is. To gain access to the ability to hear and heed the words and direction of any and all guides along the way back to one’s heart. To realize the experience of surrendering to one’s Self. To awaken, reach down into, and face one’s deepest fears, confront and allow them to transmute into whatever they really are – sort of like slipping underwater, knowing one is irrefutably drowning (there’s that surrender again), allowing it, and discovering the gills were there all along, then realizing one is becoming reborn in a whole new way. To attain pure consciousness, awakening to the Self and beyond suffering, and seeing who we truly are. To discover that the Grail is within us and always was. To find gratitude in the most trying times of all. To acquire through the ashes of one’s old life, wisdom and strength, tempered from the fires survived, and radiate a light that illuminates enough to help others through their own journey through the darkness. To know and find peace in realizing that the steps taken along the journey is the journey.

Spiritual resilience and the pine tree


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