Come with me, there is someone i would like you to meet. The timing is right, the Moon is high. She is most accessible at night. You probably have already met her, if you spend much time in the forest, but you might not have recognized her presence.
We can first feel an emotional shift when we pass from moonlight into the darkness of the forest. Maybe its a chill or some hair standing on end. Maybe just a sense of wonder and awe. At the very least a heightened awareness of our surroundings. We can feel a shift in our emotional state, directly from our encounter with forest. This shift is not imaginary, but very real. It is your nervous system interacting with the forest.
We can also feel the shift in the emotional state of the forest itself. As we approach, someone announces our presence and some of the sounds change. As we go deeper into the forest, a murmur of warning precedes us, sort of a wave of interested anxiety. Behind us the murmur dies down like the wake behind a boat. We have caused a ripple in the collective emotional state of the ecosystem.
That emotional response is part of the Natural warning system that is the most obvious manifestation of the Forest Goddess. She is the nurturing, protecting, communicating, and community building aspect of the ecosystem.
Most importantly is that our bodies and subconscious minds speak this language. The hair standing up on the back of my neck when the wolf howls or the owl hoots, is evidence of this.
Let’s go back to our most common denominator. What is it that we humans have in common with all living things? We intake nutrients, we grow and expel waste. In infospeak, we recieve input, we process it into output. Single celled creatures, plants, animals, symbiotic systems and ecosystems are all engaged in this process.
A forest is a complex system involving a huge number of creatures that act in concert and adapt to changing conditions. Population levels follow the ebb and flow of Sunlight and moisture. Species adapt, they come and go, both filling and defining a pattern of interlocking, interdependent niches that result in a functional unit, a system. What seems at first to be a random collection of plants and animals, each doing their own thing indepedent of the rest, is really a highly organized web of interdependancies every bit as alive as any of its inhabitants.
Studying the forest as a system can show us relationships not visible in other views. For example, an organ is a subsystem, performing a task for the benefit of a larger system, the body. We can see plants and animals as subsystems that perform functions within the larger system, the forest.
An organ, say your stomach, is a unit that has a physical location and a specific function within the digestive system. Our organs are a set of processing chambers connected by tubes. This network of processing and transport stations extracts energy from nutrients and eliminates waste.
We tend to get hung up on the human-centric model of what makes an individual entity. We like to have our individuals enclosed in a skin, but we find a systems definition expands the concept to include groups of symbiotic partners within the forest. For example, take a look at the nest of the leaf cutter ant. These ants hollow out huge underground nests that function very much like a body. Their nest is a set of chambers connected by tubes. These chambers act as organs in a body, each performing similar bodily functions like digestion and reproduction. Instead of using a blood stream, in this system the ants carry and deliver nutrients where needed. So we can identify the ant colony as a system, much like a body, but without specific boundaries enclosed by skin. So, we can identify the forest as such a system, growing, reproducing and dispersing, by processing information.