Skip to main content
January 26, 2023
Dr. Lanita Witt

Grief and Gratitude

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Lanita Witt on December 15, 2022 with her loving wife, Suzanne, by her side. Lanita often introduced herself as, “the Witt of Willow-Witt Ranch.” The outpouring of love from our community will carry her safely on this last journey. She was a force of love, caring, and good in this world and she is sorely missed. The Forest Conservation Burial Ground is an important part of the legacy she has left behind. She is buried in the Willow-Witt family plot in Founders Grove at The Forest. A celebration of Lanita’s life will be held at The Forest on June 21, 2023, Summer Solstice, at 5:00pm.

Read the December 24th Mail Tribune article “Remembering the full life of Dr. Lanita Witt” written by Morgan Rothborne.

We continued our tradition of honoring seasonal transitions at The Forest with a celebration of the winter solstice. Song and poetry expressed our sentiments on this season. Our Community Advisor, Joanne Kliejunas, shared this poem by Wendell Berry:

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

While continuing our work of providing a place to reconnect our experience of life and death, we are also creating space for our own grief. This is the lightening time of the year…cold but resting while developing new shoots…holding them close. We invite you to come up and visit this winter. Enjoy a self-guided visit to Willow-Witt Ranch any day of the week between 11am and 5pm. The burial ground is open daily from dawn to dusk. 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 Spring Equinox Celebration on Sunday, March 26 , 2023. We will offer a guided tour at noon. The celebration begins at 1:15pm.

With care,
Mary Ann Perry, Sexton


Seasonal Shifts
and Climate Observations

Dr. Lanita Witt and Suzanne Willow at Willow-Witt Ranch

Everybody wake up!  Open your eyes!  Stand up!  Be children of the light – strong, swift and sure of foot.  Hurry, clouds, from the four quarters of the Universe.  Come, big snows, that water will be abundant this summer.  Come, ice, cover the fields, that the seeds may grow into good crops. 
ALL HEARTS BE GLAD!                                                                 
(Attributed: Pueblo Song)

Lanita and I hosted a Winter Solstice Celebration for many years beginning in the late 1980’s.  We invited our community to join us in an afternoon of cross-country skiing, then gather as the light faded; I would read this song as a blessing.  We passed around candlelight, youngest first, sharing what we wished and hoped for as light returned to the world, incrementally growing each day.  The light grew within our little circle as each lit the next person’s candle; we finished by lighting  candles on our tree and shared the evening by candlelight.  We were (relatively) young, and the snowpack was deep and reliable.  When one of our younger died of a brain tumor in her mid-40’s the group lost important spirit, and quietly slipped away the next year.  As the snows became less reliable, often not fully covering the dry grasses, we donned snowshoes instead of skis.
Synonyms for incubation include emergence, flourishing, metamorphosis. This is the earth in cold months, and the exuberance of spring and embarrassing abundance of summer depend on it.  We ask for deep snows, ice, abundant water to replenish the earth and incubate the seeds within.
Lanita and I began regeneration of wetlands at the center of our property in 2007 by excluding grazing and planting thousands of willows (with hundreds of school kids). Last spring, we walked through the wetland and couldn’t find a place for willow bundles, the water meandered and gurgled, and covered large areas ankle-deep.  We traded our snowshoes for rubber boots.  We giggled.   In the face of climate change the wetland is holding more water, and longer.  Our actions make a difference…slowly, deliberately.
Our forests were saved in 2022, a winter approaching zero precipitation in the first three months, by an amazingly wet April, bringing forth a sigh from the earth.  Of course, California recently survived the wettest month since 1852.  What can we expect?  What can we predict? How will we know what to plant, what will grow, how much water will come?  How do we care for ourselves and the earth when cataclysm strikes?
How does the earth still turn, and my heart still beat when Lanita has died?  How do I know what to do, what to plant, where to go?  As with all seasons, I turn to the earth.  I pruned native dogwoods outside our window yesterday and marveled at their early buds.  I’ll plant the dogwood cuttings in a wetland within the cemetery.  And the world, and I, will go on.



Species Spotlight

A Winter Mystery

bird tracks in the snow
bird wing tracks in the snow

Sometimes, or many times, the natural world invites us to wonder and create our own stories. Who was hopping along here and who scooped them up? We did see a red-tailed hawk flying about the great meadow near the burial ground this week. May the mystery stir wonder in you.


More News & Events!

Community Education Opportunities

Mar. 13, The Next Level of Green Burial (Zoom) 
Cal Poly Humboldt OLLI Brown Bag Lunch Presentations
12:00-1:00pm, FREE, register for Zoom link

Mar. 20-27, Green Burial: The Greenest Way to ‘Go” (Zoom)
OLLI Chico
Mondays, 10:00-11:30am, registration required

Apr. 18, Green Burial: The Greenest Way to ‘Go” (Zoom)
OLLI Boise
Tuesday, 10:00am-12:00pm MST, registration required

Apr. 23, Your Last Hurrah: Death and Funeral Ritual and Ceremonies (In-person)
Ashland Parks and Recreation
3:00-5:00pm at North Mountain Park Nature Center, registration required

Contact Us




Request Information

Register for Guided Tour
Individual tours
available upon request.

Recent Stories


Subscribe to
The Forest Newsletter
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Your information will never be shared.
* indicates required
Green Burial Council certified member
The Forest Conservation Burial Ground is certified by the Green Burial Council