Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Enchanted Forest

When I was growing up, there was a small forest behind our house on Pine Street. At one time, I don't have any idea how long ago it was, there was an active quarry in that section of woods as well.

Aboard the ferry "Salish" to Whidbey Island, I caught this
nice pattern of shapes and color before we departed.
I used to go for walks there by myself when I was probably five or six years old. Those were the days when children were less at risk for getting lost just because they spent time exploring. And it probably was a contributing factor that my mother was an artist who didn't really want to spend time mothering, so the nanny she hired to care for my younger brother was preoccupied with him. (This is not "Oh, woe is me, poor abandoned child..." but a statement of fact.)

At any rate, I went to this piney woods often in the summertime. It was quiet, and there were some huge boulders that had gotten pushed into each other, creating a cozy little hide-away, filled with needles and leaves and cones from winds and previous seasons, in between them. (I know I didn't go there much after I was 10 or 11 because I was too big to fit in that space anymore.) It was my enchanted forest, where fairies and gnomes and my mystical life got nourished.
On this grey day, the canopy of trees took on a lovely
pattern only seen when one looks heavenward.

Once, when returning from the boulder site, I came up a path and was face-to-face with a doe and her two rump-spotted fawns and an 'auntie,' and I think a yearling. They stopped and looked at me, sniffing the air, and I was transfixed with the beauty of the group, standing breathless watching to see what was going to happen next.

It was one of those moments in time that seem to stop clocks... the world might have even stopped spinning as we faced each other. A crack of a twig somewhere broke the silence.  We all looked in the direction of the noise and there was the male, leader of the herd, fully antlered, coming to check on his girls.

There was no fear anywhere. We all sort of nodded at each other. The deer clan headed calmly off to the nearby field for grazing, perhaps to the place where I knew berries were nearly ready, and I sank to the ground, exhausted by the exhilaration of being so close to creatures I had read about.

72-acre Earth Sanctuary is located on Whidbey Island, off
Newman Road. It is $7 per person and $1 for the guide.

Fallen trees also serve as homes for the wildlife.

Yesterday I walked through a nature preserve, the Earth Sanctuary, on Whidbey Island that is privately owned and maintained. This forest fed me with the same etheric energy of my childhood. I returned home refreshed, cleansed and totally exhausted from it, sleeping two and half-hours, getting up for dinner and then falling into another wonderful and restful sleep until the six o'clock bird-fest outside my window woke me up.

This 72-acre Sanctuary is not unlike that of Willard Pond, another precious bit of protected land that our family gave over to New Hampshire Audubon to manage. I grew up appreciating the dangers of avarice for beautiful ponds and my grandmother Elsa dePierrefeu's wisdom created a 1700-acre wildlife preserve that still today offers the pavement-weary soul a place to retreat, repair and renew one's energy.

The wooded wetlands of this private land have over 80 species of native plants, including some delicious-looking red and yellow raspberries. (No, we did not take any. We did not see a sign that said we could not, but we felt we were on sacred ground and should leave the fruits of it to the residents; the deer, the birds, the beavers and muskrats and other critters that call this home.)

Raspberries are coming to fruit all over Washington now.
Ponds and bogs each have their role to play in nurturing a
healthy forest environment for all creatures, including slugs,
which are my least favorite creature overall.
I have never seen this fruit in the marketplace, but went to a
class recently to learn how to grow them at home.
There are printed, self-guided naturalist tour guides for free ($1 if you decide to keep one.) and posts with letters on them to help you determine what you are seeing, along with an explanation of why it is what it is.
The trail to the left leads to first Medicine Wheel area while
the trail to the right leads to the ponds and the Labyrinth and
Prayer Stone, more easily accessible.
The echoing basso-profundo music of these residents made
for a curious question by a tourist ... "What is making those
sounds?" I showed her how to find the source; she was entranced
and now, informed. Perhaps she also learned that they are
invaders and not particularly desirable, unless the Osprey
enjoy having them for dinner.
By taking the trail to the left, we found our way to the Cottonwood Stone Circle and the Tibetan Prayer Wheel. There is a spot for making an offering and burning tobacco. If it had been sunnier, we might have stayed long enough to see how the shadows played out on the ground.
Tibetan Prayer Wheel

Cottonwood Stone Circle

If you are planning to experience the Medicine Wheel section, be prepared to remove your shoes, carry some fresh tobacco for an offering, and either matches or a lighter to light it. At the time of our visit there was some tobacco and some sage for smudging, but the matches were wet. Also, no photographs are allowed of this sacred place, so please do not violate Native American customs by taking any.

Path is wide, but has a significant incline in
both directions. A bit challenging for wheeled
chairs or folks with walking issues.
In my opinion, the wetland trails on the farther part of the western end of the Sanctuary are not un- wheel-chair friendly, but a bit challenging, based on inclines in both directions for people with walking limitations. For example, my walking partner, due to knee issues, wasn't able to walk up the Celestial Trail at this time due to the steepness coming down.

There are plenty of places to sit and meditate in the area.
As it is not a public lands place, this is certainly not required to be ADA, but useful to know if you are traveling with someone who has such limitations. We were not able to explore the eastern end beyond visiting the Stupa very briefly due to time and weather, but another visit this fall is intended.

As we were returning to the parking lot, my totem, the American Robin, came and perched on some piled up prayer stones - a sign for me that I had come to the right place at the right time.

Visitors to the Stupa/Tibetan prayer location can use the
prayer wheels and the gong to enhance the experience.
All in all, it was a wonderful walking and meditating experience, shared with a special friend. There were a few other folks, but it wasn't at all crowded, and everyone respected the purpose of not talking while on the paths.

You can visit the Sanctuary on a day-trip basis or stay at the Retreat building on site. For more information, go to

If you don't have email or internet access, you can phone Celia at 360-321-5465.


  1. Lovely! Here at this sanctuary there has been the threat of an industrial sized wind farm on the mtn, stalled for the time being, have held them off for 5 years with one dodge after another, but they still haven't completely given up. Waiting for them to run out of money for lawyers.

  2. Thanks for the memories of Pine St. I also loved the woods there and spent many hrs finding hidey spots amongst the boulders. Very nice fotos and story.

    Annoying Mouse