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“The treasures within the earth were long hidden, and trees and forests were thought of as her ultimate gift to mankind. … Even images of shining gold and ivory are worshipped less by us than forests and their silence.” Natural History, Pliny

There is nothing like a forest. Especially in spring. Plant, animal and mineral meld seamlessly into a vibrant whole. How can we even begin to describe the confluence of factors that makes it so wonderful? Colors, textures, shapes, and smells. And sounds.

The best silence is not that of absence, but of presence. Somehow the sounds of the forest give emphasis to the silence, as though it were calling out, like a thrush in spring; to us.

One is struck by the emptiness, an emptiness of all that is not real, not natural, not belonging. Here I can just be, and be filled by that emptiness. Somehow I too belong, even while being an interloper of sorts.

A forest is not the ultimate gift, nor is it a proper object of worship. But it is indeed a gift: one much more precious than gold. And perhaps those who worshiped forests and their silence had glimpsed something, something we too often miss.

Would that we could learn how to see, and to hear. That silence. Especially in spring.

Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) was a Roman naturalist and general. His Natural History is an important early work in natural science.

Image: the woods behind my home this morning.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Inspired in part by your article:

    The Mystery of Trees

    “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psalm 1:3

    “The treasures within the earth were long hidden, and trees and forests were thought of as her ultimate gift to mankind. … Even images of shining gold and ivory are worshipped less by us than forests and their silence.” Natural History, Pliny

    Trees
    & the mystery of trees,
    Primal & primary relationships,
    Ones which we must
    Actively protect,
    Reclaim,

    Not worship;
    Not even venerate,
    But rather, respect, revere
    As elder teachers, greatly marveled,
    Faithful photosynthesized life
    Breathed.

    It is not
    For forest silence
    That we ourselves fall
    Into utter quiet, but for what
    Forests speak, what we
    May learn, hear:

    Interconnection,
    Vitality, sacrifice, peace.

    Silence
    Should always be our
    Approach; entering, humbly
    Taking off shoes; treading
    Upon always holy
    Ground.

    Forests speak
    Generations, beauty,
    Birdsong, rivers, wind, leaves;
    Forests speak constantly
    Of birth & death
    & life,

    Graceful cycles
    Spent growing deep roots,
    Growth rings, enriching soil,
    Breathing life for the planet & producing
    Natural diversity & in season,
    Good fruit.

    3 May 2015 – Pharr, Texas

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