“Somewhere Between the Mountain and the Ant”

June 21, 2022

Pando, in Utah, is the largest and believed to be the oldest living organism on earth. It is a “clonal colony” of approximately 47,000 quaking aspen “trees,” which are really stems of one root system dating back 80,000 years! It is “clonal” because all the stems have the same genetic make-up. Each stem lives about 50 years.

There are things in my life that have taken my breath away: the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the power of Niagara Falls, the fecundity of the North Pacific Rainforest (or any rainforest,) the resilience of 400 year old cedars on the Niagara Escarpment, and now, the antiquity of Quaking Aspen in Pando.

According to U.S. Forestry Service, “Quaking Aspen is the most widely distributed native North American tree species.” It is tenacious, not only surviving forest fires, but returning healthier. “In the Central Rocky Mountains, the extensive stands of aspen are usually attributed to repeated wildfires.” 

I am celebrating Canada’s National Indigenous Day (June 21) in this post.  I am honouring the Indigenous “spirituality” that recognizes the dignity and place of every part of the natural world, and its interconnectedness.  For some of us, “spirituality” may convey a disembodied, immaterial, out of this world quality. That is certainly not the spirituality of indigenous people, who believe that the Spirit of Creator is present in every aspect of the natural world.

Today I am delighting in the trees in my yard, the birds in the trees; the peonies and the dandelions; strawberries and rhubarb; the big toad in the flowerbed; worms in my garden and my dog who keeps the racoons out of my garden.

Today I am reminding myself to be thankful and respectful of this beautiful world in which I live. I am drawing inspiration and hope by contemplating my place in the grand scheme of things.

In Geneva Switzerland in 1977, in an address to the Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations, Oneida Chief Oren Lyons said, “I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.”

A healthy spirituality feeds good mental health by helping us understand our place in the grand scheme of things. It helps us move from self-centeredness to belonging. It is my experience that self-centeredness causes an on-going vacillation between over-estimating my self-importance in the world to discounting my value. Over-estimating one’s self-importance not only leads to dominance over others, but conversely causes discouragement and despair for those with a sensitive social conscience who feel personally responsible to fix the world’s problems.

Niagara Falls, the Rainforest, Pando … those parts of nature take our breath away, take us out of ourselves and give us an understanding of our place in the grand scheme of things. This is the Indigenous wisdom of belonging. It shows us that we are each of us precious AND every part of the natural world has its own dignity. We are connected to and need one another.  

Gratitude Prompt: Give thanks for those moments that take my breath away.  

A link to the full Thanksgiving Address (today’s quote) is on the Resource page of Hope-notes: