The Bark of a Venerable Cottonwood

My name is Gail and I sniff bark.

Where this began, I can’t begin to know. Being a literal, as well as figurative, tree-hugger, it likely started while getting up close and personal. Regardless, one day I discovered the warm, syrupy, cozy fragrance of cottonwood bark.This led to me to check out the aroma of an ash tree–lighter and (not surprisingly) woody. Willow–astringent. Elm–lightly astringent, woody, cool. And so forth. Then I sniffed a dying elm–it carried the sour sad smell of illness.

Trees are corporately and individually precious, and not only within the context of their value to humans. In primary school, we learned that trees are important for shade, oxygen production, lumber, nuts, etc. Nowhere was it suggested that we can have a relationship with trees, or that they have a good of their own. Generally, they are viewed as utilitarian, inanimate objects.

Researchers are now discovering that trees communicate with each other in various ways. Healthy trees benefit ailing neighbors. They do better in forests, surrounded by other trees, plants, and fungal communities. Back when I studied forestry at the University of Minnesota, these relationships were little understood, if at all. The focus was on the management of forests for timber production and in some cases, wildlife production, meaning species that humans like to hunt and kill. Being a pacifist vegetarian, some of this didn’t sit too well with me, and eventually I switched career paths.

What is my point? Pick a tree. Sniff the bark, observe it through the seasons, get a sense of its energy, note the birds, mammals and insects that visit or inhabit your tree. Become friends. Your life will be enriched.

Life is But a Dream…

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

The travails of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule are explored in the 2020 book, Eat the Buddha, by Barbara Demick. Covering the period of the 1930s to the present, we learn of of the destruction of Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism and its monasteries, along with the murder and detention of countless people. Their suffering is reminiscent of what the American Indians experienced during the destructive westward expansion of the European invaders.

Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is central to the story. An anathema to the Chinese leadership, he has lived in exile since 1959, ceaselessly traveling the world with a message of peace and non-violence. Ever-smiling, compassionate, he refuses anger and violence in the face of the destructive cruelty done to his people and his country. 

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Let’s say the boat is our body and our life is the stream. What are we to? Float passively? Flailing around bashing heads with our oars? Row in a gentle manner, says the song. Life isn’t a boat race or a war at sea,, but a uni-directional journey of peace and purpose.

The Dalai Lama is an active pacifist. He never stops rowing. He never stops advocating for his people, while teaching us the ways of peace. We can contrast his approach with those who approach injustice with anger and violence. There are no easy answers, but in my way of seeing the world, violence inclines to violence while kindness inclines to kindness. 

Row gently and merrily. Picture the Dalai Lama’s smile. He laughs often. Being perpetually outraged is corrosive to our body and soul. Live lightly. Be merry. Row gently. 

As the song says, life is but a dream. On the day when we truly awaken, this life-dream will fade into nothingness.. For now, with gentleness, row your boat down the stream. Trust in the flow. Pay kind attention to the dream of waking life, as well as to the dreams of slumber. All are one and the same.


Super-Sized Pink Moon

Rising this evening in the southwestern sky is the Pink Full Moon. Know as “Pink” not for the actual color, but for the season in which it appears. Spring. The time of blossoms emerging on trees, in gardens, and in the woodlands. The time when color returns after a winter of whites, grays. browns, and blacks.

Those who came before named the April Full Moon to honor the return of color. What a joy!

Looking out my South Minneapolis window I see emerald grass, chartreuse shrubs, and tangerine tulips. The ash trees, although always late to leaf out, swell with the promise new growth at the tips of each branch and twig.

As if the Pink Full Moon is not enough, this is also the first Super Moon of the 2021. Our beloved moon is passing slightly closer to earth, making the disc appear 12-15% larger than average.

My readers outside of Minnesota may get a chance to view this natural wonder. Here, clouds will likely interfere. But fear not! Twenty-eight days from now, the moon will once again be full, and will once again be super.

I encourage you to observe yourself month to month as the lunar cycles pass. Do you feel a difference in energy or focus as the moon moves from new to full? Personally, I tend to dream more vividly around the new moon. Around the full moon, I am more distracted, misplacing things and generally being klutzier than usual. Let me know what you experience. If the oceans are affected, why shouldn’t we, who are watery, salty creatures, also feel the pull of the waxing and waning moon?

Get out tonight and do you best coyote howl!


The Dream, Marc Chagall, 1939

“When an idea is so old, and is so generally believed, it is probably true in some way.” Carl Jung, Psychological Types, Vol 6, Collected Works

The quote from Jung refers to the symbolic meaning of dreams. From as far back as humans have been recording reflections on their experiences, dreams have played an important role in understanding ourselves and the reality that underlies our ordinary experience.

“Oneiromancy” is the technical term for the interpretation of dreams. From the Bible, to the Talmud, to the works of Homer, Greek and Roman mythology, as well as the works of Freud and Jung, dreams are taken seriously and their meanings sought.

In upcoming posts, we will delve into dreams–how they have been viewed in the past and how our dreams may help us in our day-to-day lives.

I am in the process of collecting dreams from followers, friends, and family. If you have a dream that you would like to share (your identity will never be publicly revealed) you may send a summary to: Dream interpretation is one of my skills, so if I have any insights, I will respond.

Stay tuned, sweet dreamers.

New Day

We are as we are for a reason. This is an explanation. It is not an excuse nor a life sentence.

There is always hope.

Face your challenges, ask for help, and know that you are always capable of positive change.