Joseph Hakim Anderson

Tree Calendar: Douglas Fir

In my personal Tree Calendar, the summer solstice tree is the Douglas fir.

In my very first session with my mentor Julie Charette-Nunn in the fall of 2013, she sent me outside to spend time with a trio of Doug firs. I put my back up against one of the trees unsure of what was supposed to happen, took a few breaths, and a song popped immediately into my head:

Pillar of light
Brimming with bright
Filling my life
With wisdom and insight

The phrasing was odd and poetic and very vivid; it has stayed with me. So the Douglas fir has become the "pillar of light" for me: it is the tree I use in my mind's eye when ascending to upper realms during shamanic journeying. I think also of the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through the desert. When I look out my window to the broad sweep of populated land that descends to Puget Sound, I see these wonderful sentinels everywhere, guiding my spirit upward. Their sacred presence in places that I have visited frequently in the summer months, like Millersylvania, Union, and Whidbey Island, is a reminder to me of long sunny days, and warmth, and the vertical connection between earth and sky that so inspires me.

Of course, they are wonderfully present throughout the year; dancing gracefully in the windstorms of winter, and providing a deep greenish-black counterpoint to the deciduous colors of autumn and the flowers of spring.

We saw magnificent tall trees in Japan as well, at Mt. Koya where there is an extraordinary and ancient cemetery built in a 2-mile long valley with tall cedars keeping watch over many thousands of memorial stones, many of which depict the elements of earth, water, air, fire, and ether to which the deceased have returned. As with so many of my experiences in Japan, the effect was so overpowering - beautiful, moving, vast - that I couldn't really put words to it.

As I continue the ongoing project of constructing and breathing life into my sacred world, this is what I am learning: it is the landscape of home that has the most ongoing potency for me. The plants and trees that I see every day are the ones with whom I can build relationships, develop a history, and ultimately establish a framework of meaning, coherence and purpose. I love trees I have seen in other parts of the world: the blackthorns of Ireland, the scrubby succulents of the Negev Desert in Israel, and now the tall cedars of Koya-san. And all those trees are now part of my sacred landscape, sources for me of power and meaning, in connection with the wise teachers and healers whom I associate with them. But for me, anyway, those Doug firs outside my window, that I greet every day and that provide the backdrop and context for all the dramas of my life - those trees are my best and most constant teachers.

Does my Cancerian nature come through clearly enough here? I'm sure a Sagittarian would have a completely different experience! What is important, I think, is to be tuned in to what supports your power, brings you wisdom, propels you on your journey. For me it is the Douglas firs down the street, whom I greet with a gassho and a thank you on this solstice day.