I just celebrated my 36th Birthday,36 trips around the sun. That is 13,140 days I have been alive and breathing outside of my Mother’s womb. Incredible. It seems like a lot when you count in days. Long enough that I have learned many things, unlearned a few, and have oh so many I am still learning. I feel young, I am young, but I also am no longer a youth. I am truly a woman and very much feeling the power of that truth.
I spent my Birthday in the woods, writing, eating amazing food, wandering in the rain for hours and making some unexpected new friends. Truly magical, and made more so by the circumstances of my coming to be on that land at that time. I will share this story of how I came to be on the land, on the weekend of my Birthday and share also some of the poetry that come from my time immersed in the power of nature.
More than a year ago I read the profound book Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I was deeply touched by her work and to say that this book was life changing for me would be and understatement. It actually changed the way that I see nature and my place in relationship to all life. It is a book that weaves us as humans back into the whole of life in a way that helps me believe we may make it as a species after all. It was in the pages of her book that I heard first of Shot Pouch Creek.
She tells the story of a man , Franz Dolp, who bought 40 acres of land in the coast range of Oregon and devoted his life to restoration of that land. He tended the trees, planted natives, kept them safe from the hungry mouths of deer. Nature was a direct route to the divine for him, and that resonates so deeply with me. I immediately felt an affinity with this man, now deceased, and longed to see the place that he so loved. A new old growth forest.
Being that it was located in Oregon and I am as well, I knew that I needed to go there. I consulted google to find out where exactly the land was and how I could gain access to explore. I learned that the land is not open to the public, and the only way I would be able to visit was with permission of OSU. I also saw that there had recently been an event called The Trillium Project, in which residencies are granted for creatives to be on the land and create projects in relationship with the land. This is a program offered through The Spring Creek Project which is a part of Oregon State University’s Liberal Arts Program. I signed up for the newsletter so that I could keep up to date on happenings and events as the overall feel of the departments online representation felt like something I wanted to be part of.
Over the next many months I read the newsletters that came in my email, feeling more and more called to be part of this work. I also read Braiding Sweetgrass twice more. I was learning so much about being a human being, my relationship to other non animal beings and how we can all thrive together. It is mind blowing to start to feel that not only do I love plants, but they love me back too! Incredible and maybe even delusional, depending on who you ask. But this was my felt sense and I honor that above all else. My body does not lie to me.
Early spring I was excited to see in my inbox the call for applicants for this years Trillium Project! Here it was, my chance to go to Shot Pouch, my chance to be on the land and write, in the peace of the new old Forest. I submitted a proposal, and was elated to be chosen for a writing residency. I was elated to be able to go to the land I had long dreamed of, but also to be chosen as a writer for this project. I am not a scholar or an academic and it was a big thing for me to submit that proposal. I think I have a touch of imposter syndrome when I comes to calling myself a writer. I am a writer, yet I am also shy to say these words. Shy to claim my place as a writer of words and a maker of poems. Stepping into the unknown and away from my comfort zone always pays off for me, and this was no exception. I listened to my heart and was richly rewarded.
I left early on Friday May 12th, car loaded up with my camping gear, extra tarps (thank God!) my writing supplies, some watercolor pencils, and a cooler stocked with really delicious foods. It was after all, my birthday weekend. I drove south to Corvallis and then west into the Coast Range. My heart humming, ready for what was to come and excited to be going. It was one of those times when I felt almost disbelieving that it was really happening. How could it be that I had read about this place, wanted to go, and a year later found my way there? Not just to be there but to dive deep into my writing and contribute to a project that is so deeply inline with my beliefs and principle. Incredible. When you jump, sometimes you land right were you are supposed to be.
As I arrived the rain had stopped, I fumbled with the lock box for a moment and then was able to open the gate and drive through the intense green all around me, over a small bridge with a flowing creek beneath it and pull up outside the cabin. It was quiet surreal to be there, to really be there. Surreal and not what I had imagined at all somehow, but so beautiful all the same. I wandered around for a bit to get the lay of the land and let it all sink in. Then I set up my tent, at the edge of a meadow, right by the creek. It did not start to rain again until I had my rainfly up.
Rain came hard after that though, so much rain! I was cozy and dry in my tent home and had good gear to keep me dry outside as well. Quite content I walked in the rain, began to think about writing and ate some much needed lunch.
My time there was nurturing on so many levels. I was first of all there because of answering my hearts guidance, that itself was comforting. I met three amazing women who were there at the same time as me, and they welcomed me into there group with so much affection. The poems began to flow and came through me with astonishing ease and grace. My senses all feasted on the beauty around me. Truly such an amazing place in the world. Fertile ground for all life, mine was no exception. I found myself blooming right along with everyone else on the land. All the plant people, in all their forms blooming with me. A richness of life appearing for me in a profound way. I am humbled by my experience and will treasure the memory for a long time to come.
This trip will live on inside me, and will also live in the pages of my writing that came from my residency. I am compiling and editing now, in the hopes of creating a chapbook of my writings on ecology, spiritualty and humanity. Below I will share two of my poems from this trip as well as some photos. It is with a full heart that I write this. I have so much gratitude for life bringing this dream of mine into being. SO much gratitude for Robin Wall Kimmerer, Franz Dolp, and the Spring Creek Project at OSU. Life is full of blessings, if our eyes are open to see them. Nature is not only there for us, nature IS us. All flourishing is mutual.
This land called me-
and I came.
Driving from city streets
down long highways
and curvy roads
and then – here
I have arrived.
Rain and apple blossoms
the creek softly humming outside my tent
A foragers feast of green
How often I’ve imagined this!
the meadow wide, trails ascending
Maple and Cedar greet me
I walk slowly, expanding my senses
smell and touch
the earth, water, air
It is all so alive here
Cedar fragrant against my fingers
Earth soft and damp beneath my feet
bird songs encircle me,
for now I have come-
My grandmother said – “nature is my temple”
and so I worship there as well.
Cathedrals of green canopy above me,
prayer rugs of violet and clover,
the blessing of life giving holy water.
These are my sword and shield,
my crown and chalice,
When Grandma was dying,
her bed was moved outdoors.
To the garden, under the edge
of the green cathedrals canopy.
The place where she could see
the face of God above her.
She lay still for a long time,
just looking up,
and then almost voicelessly whispered –
Green fills my spirit when I think of her.
my hands become hers,
brown with soil,
rich with life and food.
I draw her from the earth,
Root, stone and bone.
All she left undone is now on my lap,
I release the mantle of her sorrow,
we are both freed.
I have only one wish left –
That my last words be
22 thoughts on “A New Old Forest, My Birthday, and the Power of Following my Heart”
Beautiful. Happy you got to go there!
I may have to pick up that book and have a go at it 😉
you should read it!! One of the best I have read and touches so deeply into human relationship with the natural world. In fact it is a healing balm for tired souls to rest in. Please read, and then we can chat about it 🙂
Reading this moved me to tears. I’m almost done my second listening of Braiding Sweetgrass and have started reading the book as well. The chapter on Franz Dolp also called me and I am inspired to create as much as possible a natural restoration of my 160 acres.
Thank you so much for this kind and heartfelt comment. I am so glad my words found a place in you. Where do you live? 160 acres, what a treasure to steward lands of that scale. I sometimes feel we should start a Braiding Sweetgrass group, for all those so deeply touched by the book. My life has been truly changed by this text, and the paths it has lead me down.
Reading Braiding Sweetgrass and looking up Franz Dolp led me to your blog. What an incredible experience, and what a moving poem about your amazing grandmother.
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Thank you, my kindred sister.
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Darling Sister, I would love to join in on a reading group. You shared some of the “book on tape” as we painted your little hideaway together. I could immediately sense the impact this book could have but hadn’t fully realized it had woven its way all throughout you already. I’m so glad you had the chance to apply for the residency, be granted it and go out on the land to have this experience with nature, yourself and three other women (not to mention all those you reach through this blog). Live your life!
I don’t know quite how to explain how I’m feeling after finding this post when I googled Franz Dolp. I am reading Braiding Sweetgrass right now and this book has touched my heart, broke me open and expanded my soul. Then I read about Franz and my heartbeat quickens and then I find you and your words and I feel like I’m on fire and so blessed to have found a kindred spirit! Thank you for your beautiful words and for sharing them. Sister, I don’t know you, but I feel you.
Brenda, I am so glad to know you read my essay, and that it resonated with you. Robin Wall Kimmerers work has been life changing for me as well!
Isn’t it a beautiful thing, to be able to read another’s words, and know that they are your soul Kin? Thank you for being here and May it be that as time travels on our paths will cross in this earth realm as well as this digital one 🙂 much love!
Thank you, Brenda, for being here and reading my piece. I am so touched that you stumbled onto my words and they fell well into your heart. RWKs Braiding Sweetgrass truly changed my life and I live in the presence of that every day. I feel you too! Many blessings to you 💜
Serendipity led me to your blog. I have been listening to “Braiding Sweetgrass” read by Robin and just heard the chapter on Shot Pouch and Franz Dolp. Wanting to learn more, I did a search. Your writing is beautiful! Robin has brought me closer to nature and wonder of what it means to have a reciprocal relationship with creation. Glad you have found fulfillment.
Hello! I am so glad you found your way to m blog, writing is truly one of my great joys. I love Robin’s work , each time I read Braiding Sweetgrass another layer reveals itself. Thank you so much for this kind comment and it is lovely to “meet” you here.
I too read and was so changed by Braiding Sweetgrass. What an amazing story teller, so articulate and knowledgeable, weaving in secrets of ecology, the indigenous culture, and our collective human legacy. I loved your poems and your posts. Thank you for sharing. I sense a fellow kindred, one that can feel deeply. Over the decades I’ve found ways to cope, mostly by slowing down my capacity to feel, be more ‘slow growth and self sustaining like the Cedar rather than be the fast growing, opportunistic pioneering species that grow quickly suck resources but not designed for the long haul!”
She is an incredible writer! And pulls each reader and hard and fast. Transformational!
Thank you so much for reading here, and for taking the time to leave a comment, which means so much to me! We need eachother in this wild world. Slow growers, who dig our roots deep. Blessings on your way.
I just read Braiding Sweetgrass and now your site/poetry
Your writing is very special and complements my reading.( as I prepare to have book club discussion )
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Dori, thank you for reading and best of luck on your book club! So glad you found your way here, deep connection to nature heals us!
There is so little info about Franz Dolp!! I wanted to see more photos of the place and at least one of him, but I can’t find any. I loved reading your experience. It was very evocative! Such a beautiful mission he had and what a wonderful story is yours. I used to live in OR but I’m in Maine now. Such a special land. I went to Evergreen and studied Environmental Studies and in one class we went on a field trip and sat silently in a clear cut. It was pure hell!!! I can visualize that patched landscape so well, and can barely countenance reading about it now. His was such a gift!! Thank you!
So glad I found your post! Even the comment section makes my heart warm. Sending a lot if great thoughts to you, Franz, Robin WK, and everyone! May we all find ways to restore our connections to the land.
Thank you for reading. Braiding Sweetgrass and my time in the cabin at shut pouch creek has brought so much goodness into my life. Yes, may we all find ways to restore our connections to the land, and each other! Blessings.
I am a young, 70 year old man. Reading “Grandmother” I found myself touched and tearful from the beautiful use of words and images it portrayed. Thank you for sharing your experiences of your grandmother.
I’m so glad my poem touched your heart. It’s always such a delight to receive a comment such as this, I know that there are people out there in the world reading my words. Thank you!