Nature and Spirituality: The Native American
In 1965 my mother planted a sapling of a Weeping Willow tree in the back yard of our house in Long Island, New York. I was born that same year. It grew much faster and taller than me, becoming a majestic canopy over a circle of cleared earth. A sacred place. Laying under the
swaying branches in my father’s hammock, I listened to the soft whisper of her leaves. But I was most peaceful sitting on the cool, damp soil and breathing in Earth's rich scent as the Willow protected me. It was the first tree I could climb and I was happiest when I was there. It was my home. The animals, mostly gray squirrels and chipmunks, shared the tree and we lived in harmony. A collection of small stones and shells were stored next to its strong thick trunk. I would make up ceremonies and perform them under the tree. And I spoke to the Willow. I felt her love and I now understand that it was our Mother Earth's love that I was feeling in return.
When I grew up, I no longer played under the tree but continued to sit beneath her in solitude and prayer. Then, in 1985, a hurricane swept through and took the Willow. I remember looking in horror at the tree, still magnificent, as it lay on its side, roots jutting out from the ground like the petrified claws of an enormous Eagle. I remember my mother crying as if we lost a family member. I still have tears today as I recall the moment. But life, as it always does, went on.
I have since married and raised two children. Throughout our married life, I have never forgotten the Willow but had somewhat forgotten my spirituality. We tried different “religions” but never really fully connected with any. I have always felt a deep connection to the Native American people, filling my home with their images, attending pow wows, and collecting pottery. But it wasn't until recently
that I began looking towards them for answers about spirituality and the Great Mystery as they call it.
Five years ago we moved to a house closer to the water and it has become a sanctuary. My love
for these natural surroundings has grown daily and I have found a new sacred place, a small, quiet beach just across the bay. As I kayak there, I often think about the Native people who once lived here and what the land and water meant to them. I have come to understand why I feel so related to these indigenous people. I empathize with their love and understanding of our great Mother Earth; the four leggeds, the winged ones, the swimmers, the trees and plants. And Father Sky; the stars, planets, moon, and sun. These natural gifts are all they ever needed to understand life and our place in it. It is a simple yet powerful philosophy.
Feeling a little like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I realized I have had the knowledge to go home all along. After years of searching for the truth about life, its meaning, and what comes next, I found that all I ever really needed to do
was go back to what naturally lived in my heart as a child. Go back to the Willow tree.
Coming full circle, I have aligned with the Indian way. They have reminded me of what I have always known to be true. That we don't need a temple or church. All we need is to step outside and commune with the natural gifts the Great Spirit has provided for us. And look to them for answers to the Great Mystery.