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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

Loss in the woods

Updated: May 2

A woods with red pines, white pines, birch and other trees
A view of the woods behind our house

It was 2:30 AM, and a howling east wind slapped snow against our windows.

Suddenly there was a “Crack!" then "ssssss-CRASH!!” The crash sounded like it was right behind our house. I poked my husband and whispered, “What was that?”

“Number three,” he mumbled.

“Number three? Three what?”

“Third tree we lost tonight.” He paused and added, “This proves that when a tree falls in the woods, it makes a sound.” And he rolled over and went to sleep.

Not me! I was wide awake, alert to loss in the woods.

Over the next hour or so, I heard trees #4, #5 and #6, go crash, crash, crash. Number 7 was close enough to shake the house. Numbers 8 and 9 were seconds apart, falling like dominoes.

After hearing a tenth tree fall, I drifted off to sleep, feeling sad.

Same photo as above with three circles around the places where three trees snapped off
Same photo as above. All told, we lost 12 mature trees, mostly red pines like these which snapped under the weight of snow and ice.

The fallen trees remind me that loss and destruction are a part of the cycle of life. Nature is constantly recycling resources like water and nutrients through large scale events like storms and floods and through tiny fungi and bacteria.

A pine tree top on the ground and its trunk at an angle up to where the tree broke off, and a tiny pine tree in the foreground

Loss is essential to regeneration. In the photo on the right, the two trees that fell will allow more sunlight to reach one of the young trees we planted a few years ago (see blue circle) which we had fenced to keep out deer who want to nibble them. When the ground thaws, I'll adjust the fence and that tree will grow!

Through time, I'm learning to embrace loss instead of resist it. If I allow myself to let go and grief, healing comes. I find a sense of meaning that gives me energy for nurturing new things in my life.

The activity I often use with groups who feel stuck, the Ecocycle, makes this clear too. It helps groups realize that actively abandoning, destroying, or recycling what no longer works would give them the resources they need to nurture new initiatives. They may first need to process their grief about it, and I help them with that too.

Are you or your organization experiencing loss? Are you unable to let go of things that no longer work for you? Try the Ecocycle yourself or with a group. Allow the tree that falls in your woods not just to make a sound but also to nurture new life. Curious about the Ecocycle? Contact me about running a planning session for your organization.

To learn more about the Ecocycle, download my handout about it. I'll follow up with a few emails about how to use it. You will also be put on my mailing list. You may unsubscribe anytime.

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