One morning as Saturnino and a bunch of guys passed the camping area,
he called out, "Lu, fotos." That's my signal and, even though I didn't want leave my insect-free tent, I hustled into the forest to find them busily building a new trail and a bridge across a small water course.
The goal was to create a route for visiting a great Samaúma Branca.
I love big trees and this one is a marvel. When the work was done, and everyone returned for lunch, I stayed behind just to hang out.
Somehow being around this tree triggered memories of my past in Oregon where I had been a forest activist. It was my practice back then to spend all summer deep in the wilderness at a place called Bald Mountain where I had a favorite tree that -- due to its double trunk form -- I had named, the "Grandma-Grandpa" tree.
photo by Babara Ullian
Across the years many visitors came to Bald Mountain (well, maybe not MANY because it was a 12 mile mountain hike to get there). I always greeted them with a gift of "tobacco ties" which are a traditional Native American way of offering prayers. Now, at Vila Fortaleza I had also been making tobacco ties as a gift of prayers for health and happiness in the New Year. As I got caught up in my reveries about the forest, I decided to hang the tobacco ties I was wearing in a branch of this great Samaúma Branca.
Then I started to make a little video about what I was feeling. I sang a song from my Oregon days and recalled that in 12 summers on Bald Mountain somehow we had never thought about singing to the Grandma-Grandpa tree. "Wouldn't it be nice to do that... to have a church with a central altar of a great tree... we could sing to it," I thought.
Well, it's a funny thing when one is hanging out in Daime groups but there seems to be a collective mind where it's not uncommon for a thought to seem to be with everyone -- sort of a "thought field". I had known nothing about the plan for the day. I expected to have lots of alone time with "my" new tree but soon I heard voices along the trail and there were Saturnino and Pad Luiz smiling at me.
One by one, and then in groups, more and more people arrived to embrace the tree.
And, of course, soon everyone was singing.
In an earlier post I mentioned that I had quite a struggle being at this year's encounter -- many times the healing process felt so challenging that I truly wanted to leave. But here, at the foot of this great tree, I knew that I was destined to make Vila Fortaleza my new home.
"Home" is a deep concept for me, resonating well beyond words but somehow some poetry comes to me:
Do unto the EARTH as you would do unto your HOME
Healing Ourselves and Mother Earth
I knew at last what I was doing at Vila Fortaleza-- I'm coming HOME and I feel blessed to be sharing the process with all my brothers and sisters.
As my Indian friends in the US like to say, Mituke Oyasin or All My Relations.
More about Ulali
Ulali's words are about her Indian relatives but I'm sure they are meant to include our relatives among the "one-leggeds" and "great standing ones" and all the beings of the forest.
We need peace.
We need healing.
We are working on it.
See more photos here