We were scheduled to meet inside, but instead we sat in a circle of Adirondack chairs inside a circle of evergreens. The trees shaded us, their branches extending and overlapping overhead, and I was aware that their roots were doing the same more intricately beneath our feet. Most of these faces were known to me, acquaintances from my faith community, some dear friends, some folks I had only met that day or the day before. Our youngest was one and a half, our oldest were in their seventies. I was intimidated for a moment – some of these folks were atheists, scientists, professors. Had they meant to come to this event? But our theme at camp was “Stay Curious,” so maybe they came with open, curious minds, just to see. Maybe they came to support me. Maybe they came because it was on the schedule for that place and time.
Inside our circle was an candle (LED, with respect to the extreme fire danger in the Southern Oregon forests in August) and a packet of Hope Seeds. Because we were gathered together as Unitarian Universalists, we began by lighting the flame of the chalice, though the candle rested on the ground. “We are the chalice,” I told them, “the cup that holds the flame of our faith.” And then we journeyed into meditation – down to the fire at the center of the earth, up to edges of our atmosphere and beyond, to receive the light of our fiery sun, to the East, South, West and North, back to the center where all is One uniquely expressed within each of us, the Seed of Hope within. We connected to Self and to each Other as we each stepped forward, picked up our Hope Seed and shared an answer to the question, “Who are you?” We shed tears, spoke our truths, opened our hearts to each other. And we became like the trees; we intertwined, we coalesced, we became a collective, One. Then each received their charge: connect to the Earth by planting your Hope Seed in Her soil; become a point of light in the web that we weave together with other Hope Seed circles around our country, around our planet. Tend the seed of your shining hope until it grows into its power, healing the Earth. We returned with gratitude to the Seven Directions, North, West, South, East, Above and Below. We extinguished our chalice. And we tried to figure out how to fold envelopes as beautifully as the one our seeds had arrived in, and closed them up with Hope Seed stickers.
The next morning we met to worship in another circle of chairs nearby, within another circle of trees, and there were more of us, and a dozen children. I told them the story of Suzanne and Jinx the dog, who got stuck down the outhouse one summer in the woods, allowing Suzanne to discover, as they dug Jinx out, the interconnection of the tree roots beneath the soil under our feet, which began her journey to the scientific discovery that trees of different species share nutrients between their roots with the help of fungi, meaning the forest is an interconnected One. And I told them how this was just like our communities of humans. And I gave the children Hope Seeds to plant in the earth, and asked them to tend their seeds so that they grow into the trees of their best selves, intertwined with those of each member of their community. We blew bubbles and spoke our gratitudes. My own year and a half old babe snuggled on my back in a carrier until the bubbles came out, when she had to get down to see them. There was dancing and singing, chanting and moving.
That afternoon, we left that place and went back to our daily lives. We carried our Seeds with us. We are the trees. We are the chalice that holds the flame. We are the Seeds of Hope, and our actions are Hope’s fruits.