Hello fellow readers,
Over the weekend I participated in a Family Holiday Program for Comfort Zone Camp (CZC), a bereavement camp for kids and young adults. It’s their twentieth anniversary of serving families who have lost loved ones too early in life. The holidays are especially difficult, no matter how recent the loss, or how young or old a loved one was. It’s especially isolating for kids, who often suppress grief and turn to destructive ways of coping.
After the families left, the volunteers gathered, and the CZC facilitator asked for a pulse check. We went around the room and each gave a word of how we felt after the day. Words like Grateful, Inspired, Loved, Connected, and Thankful were shared. Then one volunteer candidly added -Tired. True, it was a packed day of activities but more, a day of sharing heartfelt emotions which can be exhausting yet freeing at the same time.
The next day after driving Curt to the train for a week on the road, I felt a heightened sense of gratitude for him, his family, and our canine kid. On our way home, Miss Ellie and I stopped at Lodestar Park in Fredon NJ. As we roamed through the woods, I came across a sign titled Successional Forest, a term not familiar. Basically, it means an ecological process of recovery of land impacted by a fire, logging, or farming, for example. Through a succession of stages over time, the land returns to an ecologically balanced state given no other man made or natural setbacks.
The forest at Lodestar Park, the sign explained, has an assortment of hardwood trees including red cedar, black birch, and black cherry that populated the beginning of the woods indicating the area was a farm field not long ago. The trees are known as “pioneer” or “opportunistic” species, often fast growing, and the first to populate the vacated field until they shade the under-story not allowing their own saplings to survive. Then, shade tolerant species become introduced. Deeper in the forest there are older trees, many more black birches, but also others “characteristic of a mature Appalachian forest”, the sign explained, such as red oak, sugar maple, and hickory.
As we approached the ravine of the Paulinskill River we were welcomed by a healthy stand of Canadian hemlocks that thrive in shallow soil near water. They reminded me of the domino of fallen hemlocks that toppled last March in our woods. One was two-hundred years old which started the chain reaction. Heartbreaking, though I understand the cycle of life and trust Mother Nature knows what she is doing.
As we made the turn to head back to the open field, I noticed a baby hemlock, as cute as can be, among a carpet of fallen leaves. The young hemlock looked like a Christmas tree of hope and new beginnings among the dormant and brown woodland scene. Just like the kids of Comfort Zone Camp whose spirits shifted as they shared and learned they are not alone; beginning their journey of healing and growing.
As you prepare for the holidays remember the most remarkable gift is being present in the significance of the season being Grateful, Inspired, Thankful, Connected, and Sharing Love.
Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com