I am never out of ideas to write about in this column. The hardest part is choosing which one.

As I cruised through Walmart Friday, just two hours after we learned of another impending shutdown, the sight of Christmas-themed attire nearly moved me to tears. I’m sure we were all hoping this holiday season would restore joy, warmth and connection back into our lives. But here we are, faced with continuing fear, loss and separation.

Colleen Dougherty

Colleen Dougherty

A distant friend texted me later, confiding that her depression and anxiety have been worse lately due to the pandemic. She’s a pet parent and a hiker, so I asked if, like me, her pets and her appreciation of nature were helping to keep her spirits up. She sent back smiley faces.

For where else do we receive such steady and unconditional love, generosity and devotion? Where else are the examples of strength, resiliency, steadfastness and faith so clear and abundant than from our animal relatives and our earth? Mine is not the only voice that has spoken to this truth. And so, for this column I’m including some voices, ancient to contemporary, to help me spread some comfort, and some hope. Enjoy.

“… and now, if I am sad, or filled with sudden rage, I find some quiet place with grass and leaves and earth, and sit there, silently, and hope that they will come and call me, with their silvery voices, and make me clean again, those Little Angels of the trees and flowers.” — Jane Goodall.

“Grandma’s Pa was called Brown Hawk. She said his understanding was deep. He could feel the tree-thought. He spent much time on the mountains, walking among the oaks. They were of much beauty, tall and straight. They wasn’t selfish, allowing ground for sumac and persimmon, hickory and chestnut to feed the wild things. Not being selfish gave them much spirit, and their spirit was strong.” — The Education of Little Tree, Cherokee

“When the breeze stops, the bamboo becomes silent. When the geese fly away, their shadows cannot be traced. When events occur, deal with them to the best of your ability. When they end, let go, stay calm. Do not lose yourself by worrying about what might have been or what might not.” — Buddhist teaching.

“… and I ask her, “Is there medicine?” and “How to bind these wounds?” and the only word she whispers back is Love, my Grandmother Moon.” — Drew Nelson, singer/songwriter

“One day, another Nation will awaken among you. When they rise up, each must seek to teach them, guard them, and help them. Set them on the good road and be friendly to them. Thus was foretold to the animals the coming of the Humankind Nation.” — Muskogee Creation Story

“But ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee. And the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee. Or speak to the Earth and it shall teach thee, and the fishes of the sea will declare unto thee.” — Job 12:7-8

“… joy will find you if you free yourself of preconceptions and open your heart to God’s creatures. They are more prepared than you realize to draw you into their special fellowship.” — Allen M. Schoen, DVM

As for me, my little ones continue their routines; sleeping, playing, eating. My former feral waits in the lot and greets my homecoming each and every night. Birds welcome each day with a song in the Golden Rain Tree outside my door. And the little stray cat I rescued last week, abandoned and half starved, now resides in my bathroom exhibiting no resentment or self pity, only love and gratitude for safety, a warm bed and a bowl of food.

Whenever people ask me about my certificate in ecopsychology, I tell them, “If you’re having a bad day, go and sit under a tree.” But do not sit thinking of your troubles, or even if you do, pay attention, and know that at some moment you will be invited to notice something, like a tiny ant carrying something 100 times its size, who never gives up but moves with patience, conviction, and faith. Pay attention — our world is trying to tell us something about how to face these things. And practice gratitude. It’s the way to inner peace.

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