This skyline isn’t defined by a row of tall buildings or a range of mountain peaks, but rather by a jagged line of tall spruce trees, standing straight against the sky. Approaching this coast in a boat, you are most aware of, and concerned with, the rocks that are your obstacles and your landing places. But when you see this coast up close, on foot or on a bicycle, you soon realize that you are surrounded by forest! It’s the best of both worlds, living in a forest by the sea.
This far north, native deciduous trees are few. There is no flowery, exuberant laurel to punctuate the springtime. There is no brilliantly colored oak or maple to light up the fall. The white birch is one of the few deciduous trees to thrive and is clearly at home here among nature’s minimalist architecture. It offers soft contrast to the simple starkness of the spruce–green-black needles, smooth bark and sculptural form.
Today, morning fog clings to the rocks from which the trees grow, making them seem suspended, very slightly, above the earth, detached, floating. Just the opposite of their usual rooted integrity.
The shapes of the spruces and the leafless white birch seem honed by a razor until all the extraneous bits have been skillfully removed. Revealed is the beauty to be found in the unadorned, the pure and simple. In the way that the structure of the haiku makes the poem appear, the structure of the forest, with its simple contrast of colors and textures, can remind us what lies beneath our own surface.
Many religious traditions encourage us to strip away the inessential in a quest to reveal the soul within. To be found there is our truest nature, our essential self, an image of God. There are many ways to hone our soul and to release it from its outer cover: prayer, meditation, spiritual friendships, crisis, calamity, falling in love, having a child. However we manage to do it, stripping away the mask of self is a lifetime’s work.
It’s a blessed, peaceful presence that the spruces offer. Lifting eyes to the skyline brings awareness of the the ground upon which we stand, and of the the timelessness of it. Grounded and enveloped, you can center here and be drawn into the forest world. There is a world not of busyness, but of the still and intimate presence of God made plain by the profound beauty of these majestic trees, clean against morning’s silver sky.


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