Nature Wisdom


With Pat Tuholske; Naturalist

The Goodness Of Evergreens

During my walks, I am enchanted by the bright spots of green amid the browns and grays of the early winter landscape. The Evergreens are in their glory as they shelter birds, scent the air and glisten with dew. I wonder at their strength, constancy and endurance.

Since ancient times, Evergreens have symbolized life when all other plants appear dead. 

One of the oldest species on earth, they have long been a sign of hope during the coldest, grayest days of winter. When all the earth is brown and barren, Evergreens hold the energy of the Sun with the promise of renewal and rebirth bringing everlasting life.

As our nights grow longer and days grow shorter, we plan celebrations for Thanksgiving and the holiday season. These celebrations often include the Evergreen. The ritual of decorating with Evergreens comes to us from the peasants of the Middle Ages who made Solstice preparations by gathering branches and placing them near the hearth to represent the light of the Sun. The folk custom of erecting and adorning Evergreen trees in early winter began in the 1500s. By mid-1800 the tradition had spread throughout England and America. The Christmas tree is widely used in our modern celebration of the holiday season as symbol of hope and light. 

I grew up in a Cedar forest and have a deep appreciation for this ancient tree. Humans have a long historical relationship with the Cedar. Ancient Egyptians used oil of Cedarwood for mummification and cosmetics. During the Middle Ages with plague sickening cities, Cedar was burned to cleanse the air. Its smoke has been used for centuries by natives to purify energies and protect the spirit. 

Our driveway is planted with a grove of stately Spruce you smell on the breezes as you pass. They provide dense cover for fawns, birds and rabbits. Native Americans used Spruce for canoes, baskets, roofing and rope. The boughs and needles were made into incense, body scents, and cleansing agents. When I meditate with Spruce oil I sense the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges. It lifts me up and gives me the gift of seeing through the eyes of a child.

The biggest Yew I have ever known lives in our neighbor’s yard. Measuring fifteen feet tall and twenty feet wide, it is quite a presence. Yew has a special place in the hearts of cancer survivors. Yew’s anticancer properties were first discovered in the 1960s when the National Cancer Institute conducted plant-screening research. Yew is such powerful medicine that you should never attempt self-medication, because it is poisonous. As old timers say “poison kills poison”, I feel that’s one of the reasons it is so successful at killing cancer cells. The wandering Celtic tribes considered Yew a symbol of rebirth and reincarnation. Yew gives the gift of youth in age and age in youth. 

Our woodland is adorned with several stands of Pines reaching tall to sky. As I walk under the Pines on soft carpet created by fallen needles, I listen for the music created by wind in their branches. It is a sound as old as the first Pine. Pine is the oldest tree. It has been on Earth a long time and will be long into the future. Able to survive countless Earth changes, Pine exhibits great strength and resilience. Ancient tribes regarded it as the Tree of Peace. Meditating with the tree, smoke or essential oil helps in understanding the spirit of Nature and encourages the qualities of appreciation and patience. 

Many more Evergreens grace the winter landscape — Holly, Fir, Arborvitae, Bayberry, Boxwood, Magnolia. Each has its own unique gift. Which one speaks to you? Seek its green healing gifts to revitalize you through these times. Evergreens are survivors. They have much to teach about bouncing back from adversity and letting your true color shine even in the darkest of days.

Grace your home with the Evergreen spirit by displaying the family Christmas tree or by making wreaths and prayer bundles. For wreaths, I go to the woods and collect Evergreen sprigs, pinecones, rose hips and moss. Weaving them all together, I hang my wreath on the front door to bless all who pass. For prayer bundles, gather a few branches, tie the stems together with a ribbon and hang in doorway or near the hearth for protection and purification during the long winter. 

We have our annual holiday rituals of finding the perfect tree or wreath and displaying it in a place of honor. We invite the Evergreen to share in blessed celebrations, treasured memories and glorious hope for the goodness in the world to shine.

See Pat’s Wild Wreaths, Twig and Feather Art crafted from Ozark native flora and fauna at WillowRainHerbalGoods.com and at Green Door Art Gallery. Check out her Field Journal for musings on the Human-Nature relationship.