The 100% Natural Solution

Delighting in the elemental and elegant things of nature is a privilege of membership in the human race.


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My first reaction was awe. I stopped my work to lean against the elephantine base of a tropical rainforest tree and wipe the grit and sweat from my forehead. And then I saw them. With the grim determination of the Allied invasion force breaching the beach at Normandy, a swarm of tiny seed ticks was advancing over my right shoe, across the dunes of my puckered white sock, and up the fortification of my pant leg.

“Hey!” I said indignantly. “What the heck am I doing here?”

The answer, of course, was that I had volunteered. The place was Barro Colorado Island, a 15-square-kilometer sanctuary on Gatun Lake in Panama, which technically is part of the Panama Canal passage. I was there in 1985 as an Earthwatch Volunteer taking part in an ongoing conservation study whose purpose was to help preserve the world’s tropical rainforests. One thing I learned on this hot, sweaty, itchy, flagrant, tick-infested adventure was that nature can inspire the human soul even when the soul’s human body is outrageously uncomfortable.

I had come to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island along with six other Earthwatchers to help researcher Stephen Hubbell, also known as “The Mad Mapper,” continue a project called “The Structure and Dynamics of a Tropical Rainforest; Implications for Conservation and Management.” In 1980 Hubbell and his team had created the world’s largest forest study plot on the island by surveying a half-square-kilometer section of moist tropical forest on the island. Then his group tagged, mapped, and recorded pertinent data on every tree of a certain trunk centimeter, thus placing some 238,000 trees under long-term observation. What Earthwatch was helping Hubbell do was perform a regular census of the plot. The ultimate object was to create an invaluable management guide for the world’s quickly disappearing rainforests.

On Barro Colorado Island wildlife runs wild in spite of humans. The island represents nature uninhibited. That, indeed, is its value to science and the reason researchers from around the world flock here to observe what nature does when left to its own devices. Our role as Earthwatchers was to supply the basic grunt work of surveying Hubbell’s plot and ultimately helping him discover exactly how tropical moist forests work. That goal required a long-term, ongoing examination of the protected forest plot. Each of the 1,250, 20-foot-by-20-foot quadrants in the entire plot had to be revisited periodically, and every tree had to be remapped, re-measured for tree-trunk growth, and re-quantified for its physical condition.

One day, as The Mad Mapper showed me around, I heard the far-off baying of what sounded like a pack of hunting dogs. “What do you use those hounds for?” I asked Hubbell.

“Those aren’t hounds,” he chuckled. “Those are howlers.”

Howlers are garrulous monkeys that could be heard most of the time on the island. Legend has it that they howl when it rains, when competitors approach, or even in response to low-flying aircraft. I saw howlers answer particularly violent gusts of wind by throwing back their heads and yowling with all the gusto of a soprano belting out a Puccini aria at the Met.

The station itself was an observation post where passing animals of every kind could be watched and admired. At night katydids the size of electric harmonicas and wildly colored insects gathered at black lights set up for the amusement of observers. In the mango trees outside the dining hall, spider monkeys and coatimundis spent each evening feasting on ripe fruit. All day long, noisy gangs of parrots raced across the station clearing. And the occasional guan — a turkey-like game bird — fluttered across the station’s makeshift campus looking for all the world like a disheveled commuter chasing a bus.

In the evening The Lab’s pet tapir, Alice, a morphological cross between a rhino and a horse, would lumber in from the forest for dinner. Alice, all 350 pounds of her, had been following the same feeding routine for almost nine years. She would go to the kitchen door, stick her long, flexible snout in the hatch used for serving breakfast, and blatantly beg for her supper. Then she would waddle contentedly behind the cook as he carried a blue washtub full of scraps to a cement feeding platform.

One night, after a hard day in the forest surveying The Mad Mapper’s trees, several Earthwatchers sat outside The Lab and lounged in the entrance clearing to the island, which afforded a magnificent vista overlooking Gatun Lake. Far below us, a dirty looking tanker was plowing through the channel buoys marking the route of the Panama Canal. Several volunteers were sharing a ceremonial bottle of Bactine for insect bites. Others were downing Panamanian beer. One volunteer spotted a black-and-white owl adjacent to the clearing and consulted his birding field guide.

“Can often be found beside the entrance clearing to Barro Colorado Island,” he read out loud from the guide’s narrative on the species.

Truer words and more precise territorial data were never written.

In retrospect, I now understand that there was a more thoughtful answer to my initial panicky question when confronted by those seed ticks. What the heck was I doing here? In essence, all of us Earthwatchers were there answering the S.O.S. sent out on behalf of rainforests everywhere as they quickly disappear in a shower of wood chips, saw dust and human greed. But just as importantly, I was taking advantage of my not-so-exclusive membership privilege as part of the human race to learn more about the complex, richly textured, miraculous world we are lucky enough to inhabit.

Communing with nature has never failed to raise my consciousness, inject me with a dose of pure joy, or fill me with a reverent and profound adoration of life on earth. Where would I be without this deep wellspring of spiritual inspiration? Nature stimulates both my sanity and my spirituality.

And so it happened that, after two weeks on Barro Colorado Island, a myriad of tick encounters, a score of chigger bites, one case of athlete’s foot, two second-degree sunburns, and 24 changes of sweaty clothes, I found myself transformed by the majesty, tragedy, mystery, and travesty of the wondrous natural world that represents our ultimate responsibility to preserve, and our ultimate shame to waste. I also realized that each patch of nature I stumble upon is not only my own piece of Eden, but also a potential slice of Paradise Lost.

I have been fortunate enough to go adventuring over five decades in some of Earth’s most exhilarating and magnificent natural spots, and yet I have barely touched the multitude of mindboggling natural phenomena all over the world. One truth I have learned from all this natural beauty is that the infinite “nowness” of nature is everywhere. As health-meditation guru Jon Kabat-Zinn put it, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Now I take a different approach. Instead of chasing nature in my seven-league boots by rambling all over the world, I worship nature in my own back yard. I have finally learned that the awesome eternity of the rainforest is also in residence anyplace I go.

Hence, I look for revelations every time I walk in the meadows of my native Amherst, Massachusetts, or go for a ramble through its Walden-like woods, or run the nearby Robert Frost Trail. Every living creature or natural object or elemental force or universal law I observe is yet another symptom of divine intervention in my life and reminds of a line from the film Field of Dreams: “There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place, and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.”

By venturing into nature, any moment can also become an encounter with the miraculous.

Charles Creekmore has written for numerous national publications, including the New York Times Syndicate, Psychology Today, Travel & Leisure, National Wildlife, Islands, Runner’s World, and AARP. He can be reached at ccreekmo@engin.umass.edu.

See also:
Plant Spirit Medicine
Fighting An Invisible Enemy In Our High-Tech World

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Daily Astrology

August 19, 2017

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August 2017

This show offers an opportunity to purchase natural mineral and gem crystals to enhance your healing, meditation, and experiential activities.  200 retail and wholesale vendors from across the...

Cost: Adults $6, Parking $5

Where:
Eastern States Exposition
Better Living Center
1305 Memorial Dr
West Springfield, MA  01089
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Sponsor: LLD Productions, Inc.
Telephone: 505-867-0425
Contact Name: Regina Aumente
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Barbara Fe is back for another amazing workshop! There is no need to have attended her previous classes to join in for this one - just a willingness to explore your own intuitive abilities!...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
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Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
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Sunday Reiki treatments with Reiki master and practitioner Linda Simons in Brookline, MA. Start your week off on a more balanced note with a Reiki treatment on a Sunday afternoon. Please join me...

Cost: Sliding Scale $20-$40

Where:
233 Harvard Street
Suite 36
Brookline, MA  02446
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Telephone: 617-304-2205
Contact Name: LInda Simons
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Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
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Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
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Guided loving kindness meditation every Sunday at HeartSong Spiritual Wellness. No charge to attend. Donations are appreciated to help support this non-profit wellness center. Read more:...

Cost: Free

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
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Sponsor: HeartSong
Contact Name: Jacki Rose
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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
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We're so excited to have Nicki LeMarbre bringing this beautiful sound healing meditation to us. She will also have some crystal and jewelry at the event for sale as well. Nicki is offering...

Cost: Preregistration online $44, At the door $49

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
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Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
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August 16 - 19, 2017 Healing Trauma and Installing Boundaries. With Judith Swack, PhD. Learn how to heal PTSD. HBLU™ integrates the best of biomedical science, psychology, spirituality,...

Where:
56 Pickering Street
Needham, MA
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Sponsor: HBLU™, Inc.
Telephone: (781) 444-6940
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Qigong is an amazing practice used to prevent and heal disease. Qigong is a series of flowing and repeated movements, stretches and breathing exercises. Qigong movements are gentle and easy to...

Cost: $12

Where:
The Arlington Center
369 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA
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Sponsor: Maryellen LaBelle
Telephone: 781-710-4325
Contact Name: Maryellen LaBelle
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Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
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Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
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MBSR: Tools for Managing Stress and Enhancing Wellbeing Dates: Wednesday Evenings July 12, 19, 25 August 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 Retreat: Saturday, August 26, 2017 9:30-4:30 PM Join us for a...

Cost: $300 - $650

Where:
Cambridge Health Alliance
26 Central Street
Somerville, MA  02143
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Sponsor: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Contact Name: Bridget Kiley
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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

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August 17 - 20, 2017 The Berkshires is composed of 30 unique towns and two cities bordering Vermont, New York, and Connecticut and is equidistant from Boston and New York City. It is here...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
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Sponsor: Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
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Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
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Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

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Come unwind at the end of the week with your Anastasia's Health Happenings tribe! Fridays in Amesbury… Kick start your spiritual journey by supporting others on their spiritual...

Cost: $5 suggested donation

Where:
Anastasia’s Health Happenings
110 Haverhill Rd
Bldg. C, Suite 342
Amesbury, MA  01913
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Sponsor: Anastasia’s Health Happenings
Telephone: 978-621-8435
Contact Name: Patti Anastasia
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Join Cayce Lannon of Maine Yoga Kids for her first of two kid-focused yoga workshops here at The Studio at One Earth! Bring the whole gang for some yoga fun! We’ll...

Cost: $20.00 per family (up to four people), extra family members $5 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
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Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Website »

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January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

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Join Cayce Lannon of Maine Yoga Kids for a great family yoga experience! This will be the second workshop of the day.  Explore the restful side of yoga in this fun and...

Cost: $20 per family (up to four people), extra family members $5 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

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