But this past Mother's Day weekend, I had nothing but time with my best friend, who lives in Duncan, BC. Instead of presents for our birthdays, we decided to enjoy each others' presence. And it just so happened that my visit with Cathy coincided with a Cowichan 101 session offered by some elders of the Cowichan Tribe in the form of a trip to T'l'oqwxwat, known (in English) as Avatar Grove. It's an old-growth forest that was saved from logging in 2009. Click here to read the story of how Avatar Grove came to be protected by the Ancient Forest Alliance. And if you love old forests, consider contributing to the cause.
At 8:30 a.m., about 35 people from the Duncan area boarded Lisa's school bus for what felt like a long drive toward Port Renfrew, and a bit further up a very bumpy logging road to the Grove. There were a half dozen vehicles parked on the edge of the road near a small sign that offers very little indication of the wonders above and below it.
After we hiked up a fairly well-made path to "Canada's Gnarliest Tree," we gathered to hear two Cowichan leaders, Fred and Rob, speak about the forest and its abundant healing properties. They sang and drummed for us, talked about the medicines found in old-growth forests, and about how their ancestors spent 40 years cutting and hollowing out thousand-year-old trees to build sea-going canoes that took them all the way to Malibu in California.
Fred played his Salish wind instrument so beautifully that tears rolled unbidden down my cheeks. I sat against a several hundred-year-old tree, set my camera to record and laid it in my lap so that I could just listen, breathe, pray, and watch the gorgeous movement overhead.
Avatar Grove is a sacred place to the Cowichan peoples -- as all old-growth forests should be for all of us. Our leaders invited us to offer prayers there, to lay down our burdens at the feet of the trees, to settle against them and asbsorb their goodness and the pure air they offer. I can't begin to describe amazing presence there.
If you're ever out Port Renfrew way and can make your way up a bumpy forestry road to T'l'oqwxwat/Avatar Grove, it's definitely worth the trip. There's nothing like sitting on the knee of a six-hundred-year-old Douglas Fir and breathing with her. Especially on Mother's Day weekend. I'm so blessed...
Deepest gratitude to Lisa, Rob, and Fred.