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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

949: the knowing old land has lighted the woodland’s edges with the last flowers of the year.

Day 949: … the knowing old land has lighted the woodland’s edges with the last flowers of the year.


I have been collecting some thoughts and sights about olives in anticipation of the harvest. We have a wonderful group of volunteer helpers, some who have come from far away to learn more about raising and producing organic olive oil. But when the heavy rains come, the wisdom that always inhabits olive trees decides it's time to take a break from the ripening process!

In a week or so, the trees will decide it is time to finish that ripening process. The volunteers will be happy and I can dig up my notes, or more likely just look around and share with you what thoughts come to mind in an olive grove during the harvest.

I often wonder how birds find shelter during heavy rains. Venturing out for a short time, I discovered that our olive trees with their many branches covered so heavily with leaves at this time of year, can provide shelter for a host of small birds.

Other trees are gently letting go of their leaves. We are blessed with a giant hickory tree in front of the farmhouse. It has stood there for many years. Each autumn it is covered with golden leaves. But in this latest storm the leaves began their flight to the earth where they will eventually decay and give nourishment to the tree. When the nuts begin to fall, it sounds like a wind chime as they bang their way through the branches. Always there is a person or two here who resolves to break open those well protected thick-skinned nuts. After awhile, most become content to let the nuts gather in little piles where they fall.

All of this activity is on the south slope of our property which was always a bare spot or, as it used to be called, “a hole” in the forest. A Pomo elder told me that it was an inviting slope which had been a small trading area long ago where different bands and tribes would gather. In the summer apparently the slope was also used to dry fish.

As many of you know, our little chapel and meditation garden is at the crest of the hill. For centuries the north slope behind the chapel took care of itself. Then in the 1960s, any tree that could be sold was cut. Since moving here in 1976, our objective has always been to restore this sylvan ecology which represents about half of our property. The Douglas firs and redwoods are coming back. Some that were too small to cut in the 60s are now beautiful and imposing trees. And our friends are planting more. This will always remain “forever wild.” There are many songbirds, a large flock of ravens, kites, owls, and the occasional eagle and heron in the forest. Beneath the canopy of evergreens and majestic madrones, little creatures live what appears to be peaceful and happy lives.

Friendly botanists and others have assured us that in the future these sanctuaries of nature like ours will become increasingly important. Our volunteers and friends have cleared several paths. Besides improving the forest’s health and decreasing the chance of forest fire, they were crafting for themselves a spirituality that includes both people and nature. Now people, young and not so young, walk the new paths almost every day. And certainly many others will benefit from the quiet atmosphere as the years go on.

The world smells so fresh in the rain. Some of my young friends walk bareheaded without the protection of an umbrella. There are beautiful tiny plants along the ground. I think this was what Wendell Berry (1934- ) saw when he wrote,

… the knowing old land

has lighted the woodland’s edges

with the last flowers of the year.

Soon the rains will come, and then go, completing their cyclical trek across the Pacific. The cat will wake up and stretch. The olive trees will shake off any water and decide it is time to complete their fruit so that it can make the golden oil that has been important to people around the world for centuries.

The birds will be flying again, and with them so will our spirits.

Brother Toby

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