The earth had been defiled. A young couple had attempted suicide in the park on a dark winter night. A few old growth cedar stumps anchored the path reminding us that ancient forces of life have been here a lot longer than we and our people. Our ranger friend lead us up the path and then off the path, bushwhacking down to a spot under a cedar tree. He had asked earlier if we would come and help cleanse the area.
That dark winter night one person had second thoughts, and called 911 on a cell phone with a fading battery. It was enough for the first responders to know generally where they were. Attempts to return the call failed, but they set out with a Search and Rescue dog. One group came in from the top of the park and another from the bottom. The rangers house was at the bottom. They knocked on the door and were able to get the Ranger couple’s help since they are the caretakers of this land and know it better than anyone else. Eventually the couple was found, thanks to the efforts of all, including the dog who was able to locate them. They were evacuated and taken to a local hospital with life threatening wounds. Later, word got back to the rangers that they survived.
When we got to the spot, Psalm 24:1 was read: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all it’s people belong to him.”
We prayed for the young people who came to this place so desperate. We gave thanks that their lives were spared, that the forces of life were stronger than those of death that night. We understood that because they came to the park, they were able to be rescued. If they had gone somewhere else that may not have been the case.
We took pure water from a spring that bubbles up near the path then joins the creek that runs through the park. We poured the water out as a symbol of life and cleansing. We prayed the water would be cleansing to the earth and renew it along with the gentle rain and our prayers.
We ended the ceremony with this Celtic prayer:
In time of sorrow:
May you see God’s light on the path ahead,
when the road you walk is dark
May you always hear, even in your hours of sorrow
the gently singing of the lark
When times are hard may hardness never
turn your heart to stone
May you always remember when the shadows fall
you are not alone
Walking back to the bottom of the trail where our cars were parked we noticed the sun’s setting light in the tops of the trees and remembered the first stanza of the prayer: “May you see God’s light on the path ahead, when the road you walk is dark”. We talked about the Japanese and Korean custom of “Forest Bathing”. It is a walk in a forest as a way of relaxing and managing stress, while breathing in the healing aromas of the forest. This whole experience was indeed cleansing for both the land and our souls.