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Fall in the Forest

October 3, 2023
funeral flowers and sound bowl at a green burial

Towards the Starry Dark

Blessings to you during this time of seasonal transition.  Thank you to those of you who joined the tour and equinox celebration. We enjoyed a lovely gathering and shared our relationship to this time of year. For me, more darkness means more time with the stars.

May you enjoy this poem from What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms and Blessingsby Joyce Sidman.

We Are the Stars

We are the stars, who sing
from a distant place.

Yes, you are alone in your orbit,
as we are.

Yes, your light burns fiercely,
as fiercely as ours.

The thin wind of loneliness
may howl around you,
suck the breath from your fire.

But look before you
and behind you.
Look above you
and below you.
See how many other hearts are burning,
burning as brightly as yours.

We are the stars.
We sing with our light
in our vast, brilliant constellations:

This seasonal transition initiates preparation for the cold months to come, and the inevitable growth after the cold. Come up and visit to experience the natural world preparing! Enjoy a self-guided visit to Willow-Witt Ranch any day of the week between 11am and 5pm. Remember to follow directions on the website and contributions to The Crest are always welcome from visitors.

Please join us for the next seasonal shift. Honoring the earth and welcoming our community is important to us. Mark your calendars for the Winter Solstice Celebration on Sunday, December 17, 2023. We will offer a guided tour at noon. The celebration begins at 1:15pm. BYO warm drinks to enjoy by the fire.

With care,
Mary Ann Perry, Sexton


Seasonal Shifts
and Climate Observations

evening sunlight on meadow by The Forest at Willow-Witt Ranch

Long term relationships, what makes them work?

“You get to live here?” asked a forest manager.

Yes, Lanita and I were blessed to live, and work, together on this fascinating piece of the earth for 38 years. I live here alone now and work to adjust to ‘I’. The land continues to stir hearts, most especially mine. As Lanita was dying, a number of people asked if I would ‘stay up there’ alone; my startled (and perhaps rude) reply was that this isn’t ‘up there’, it’s home.

Aren’t we all in a long-term relationship with the natural world? How can we assure continued health for all of us, humans and the natural world? Curiosity.

However the universe works, Lanita and I knew this property was right for us the first time we saw it, December 31, 1984, though we knew nothing about it (like how many acres it was). We started learning about this fascinating and diverse piece of land when we purchased it as a derelict ranch in January 1985; there was something….not the run-down house or the falling-down barn…that called to us. Was it the pastures, ringed by forests, the way the fog hangs over the meadows in the fall and winter, the diversity of plants and animals who share this space? The more we saw, the more curious we were: Who had lived here? What did they do on/to the land? What had changed with humans ‘managing’ the land? What would it have looked like without extractive practices? What did ecosystems health look like for the meadows/wetlands? What impact did farm animals have on the property? How could we ameliorate the negative impacts?

Our relationship with the land deepened, just as our personal relationship did over 43 years. Curiosity is imperative for continued growth over time. We learned new ways to be in relationship with each other and with the land, other people, and the natural world.

We formed The Crest, educational non-profit with the mission of connecting people to nature, to share what we’ve discovered about nature: she’s the most generous teacher and helps us belong. How can we help people of all ages find the belonging we’ve found in nature? How can we help ensure the health of the world? Sitting in nature. Listening. Feeling. Being alive in nature.

We formed The Forest Conservation Burial Ground for many of the same reasons and mission. Walking and sitting in The Forest I see the diversity of the world around each burial site. I see family and friends expressing how blessed they feel that their loved one’s burial contributes to the health and conservation of this land…and the earth.

–Suzanne Willow


Species Spotlight

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas fir trees and sky overhead

The species spotlight this fall is the Douglas fir. The seeds of this beautiful evergreen tree provide nourishment to wildlife, while humans have enjoyed their prowess in the landscape and made use of the Douglas fir’s strong timber. The thick, corky bark of the Douglas fir is moderately fire-resistant. Indigenous legend in the Pacific Northwest tells of a forest fire from which animals were seeking refuge. The mice, who couldn’t outrun the fire, were invited by the Douglas fir to climb its thick bark and seek refuge in the fir cones. If you take a close look at the cones of a Douglas fir, you can see the shape of the mice’s hind legs and tail sticking out underneath the scales.

Douglas fir cones closeup

Our neighbors in the Rogue Valley may have noticed increased mortality among the Douglas fir trees in the area. According to the Oregon State University Extension Service, the mortality of Douglas fir in southwestern Oregon has been associated with the flathead fir borer (PDF), as well as drought conditions. This complex issue is visible in the orange-colored firs seen while driving from The Forest down into the valley, and it will affect the biology of our landscape.
We deeply appreciate our Douglas firs here at The Forest and do our best to maintain their health and vitality, while acknowledging that death is a part of life. We must learn to adapt and support our natural landscape as we face new and difficult challenges together.

Photos by Joel Blit and John Hagstrom

More News & Events!

Star Party at The Crest at Willow-Witt Ranch October 21, 2023

Community Education Opportunities

Nov. 6 & 13, 2023: OLLI Chico Class, Monday, 10am-11:30am (zoom), Green Burial: The Greenest Way to ‘Go”. Registration required.

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Green Burial Council certified member
The Forest Conservation Burial Ground is certified by the Green Burial Council