Letter: The surviving member of a little forest in Clayton Heights

Ten years ago there were still forests with hazelnut trees, eagles and more in Clayton Heights, including one that replenished my soul.

One of Surrey’s mature conifers reaches for the sky.

An open letter to Mayor and Council, and the community;

I was originally writing to you out of grave concern for the trees, forests and peoples of Cloverdale and the Clayton Heights subdivision area, an area bordering the Township of Langley. However, what came through in the writing of this letter is instead the strength of their story.

Ten years ago, there were still forests with hazelnut trees, eagles, coyotes and rabbits and the odd hawk or so in the Clayton Heights area. There was a little forest near our home that I would visit every day to replenish my soul, drinking in its life giving force.

The site which I refer to is where Katzie Elementary School now stands; a school named after the Katzie Nation, First Peoples of this territory.

The day the trees were cut down, a crow called loudly at my window as though in great distress. I jumped out of bed and followed his call.

I found myself staring at the forest invaded by bulldozers and work crews with chainsaws in hand. Tears filled my eyes, as the sun shone brightly in the sky. There were no birds to be heard other than the crows.

I thanked crow for doing his job of waking me and I walked into the little forest one last time. I breathed in her stillness expecting to feel sadness and despair from the forest. Instead I felt only love.

Immediately I was overcome with warmth and through a waterfall of tears I looked up to see the sun shining through their bows and hands as a gentle breeze danced with them one last time.

They stood tall and gracefully erect, like smiling ladies walking into the ocean without a backwards glance. The taller older ones stood like warriors tall and proud; eyes and hearts wide open.

I sat in her peace, and melted into stillness as she embraced me, encircling me with her life giving force. I felt my soul sink into the spirit of the forest as we shared.

This is what was said: We are all a mirror of each other. The love I was feeling was my love, being mirrored back to me. What we put out comes back to us tenfold. It returns to us in our generation, the generations that follow and reaches into the generations that came before us.

We are all part of the great stitch in the fabric of life. Together we twist and turn and weave in and out of experiences and stories and moments.

To be mindful and present is the most difficult task of any human in our day and age; to slow time down to a crawl even if for only five minutes a day.

We rush past everything so quickly in life, rarely listening to what others are sharing, rarely seeing with eyes wide open, and infrequently standing tall.

The faster we rush, the more plugged in we become to a technological world.

As we become separated from our earth, the less energy we feed her and thus, the less we feed ourselves. The more disconnected we become from our true nature; the peaceful contentment of sitting and breathing.

The more we multitask, the more our authentic true vision becomes blurred. The easier it is to not care or declare, “That’s not important!”

The big buzzword in our environmentally conscious circles is “stewards of the earth”. If we are not able to see or even care or take note of the forest that is being cut down in our own backyard or the eagles that were there and now have left, how can we possibly be stewards of our earth? How can we possibly be stewards of ourselves much less our children’s and our Earth’s tomorrows? We are kept too busy paying bills to a system that feeds on keeping us blinded to what is real and true.

There is hope though – our children are the ones who can be the way-showers of how to be genuine and connected. Yet we train them from very early ages to become separated from self. Laptops, iPhones, computer games are made readily available. Children are “plugging in” to the system and becoming tech-savvy from the earliest of ages, some as young as two and-a-half. They do not run outside. And when they do, where is the little forest for them to run and play in? How can they skin their knees scaling the trunk and hang from the boughs of these magnificent medicine beings known as trees?

Are we as a people, a human tribe, really going to allow this to happen? Do you want this to happen? Every day there are trees being clear cut by the rapid development in Surrey and Langley communities.

To plant small saplings along a sidewalk is not the same as 10 old-growth cedars.

A grandmother tree was left behind on the southern side of the elementary school’s property because she bore an eagle’s nest. Thank you to the eagles for leaving their mark in some way; because of them, the tree now stands to this day, surrounded by a fence and a circle of rocks.

The tree serves as the community bird haven. Sometimes at dusk, my ears are flooded with the harmony of dozens of different birds: voices as they pow wow in her boughs, clicking and chirping, whirring and cooing.

I happen to know the children that attend Katzie Elementary are very proud and connected to their “Eagle Tree”. They know intuitively that they belong to her and she belongs to them, linked within the passage of time.


Tonya McLaughlin


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