Beech Forest in Autumn

The beech forest is the classic ‘wood’ covering most of old Europe, below the conifers on the steep slopes, and above the poplars and willows in the wetlands. I was walking on the slopes of Salève, the mountain that overlooks Geneva, south of the Arve River. I had climbed through hazel and alder, oak and ash, all going gold, and suddenly I found myself rustling through russet drifts of leaves. I had reached the beech!

A city, almost by definition, summons resources from all over the world. Trade and communication networks pluck bananas from Africa, cotton from India, wool from New Zealand, to feed and clothe the people of Geneva. But here, with the sunlight rendering the remaining beech leaves orange and scarlet, and their smooth grey-skinned trunks emerging into the autumn light, I was in the local ecosystem, whose soil and water and air nourish Geneva to this day.

And what feeds the souls of Genevans? Most of them would probably still point to their scriptures, their churches or mosques, their rituals and devotions. The beech forest also offers them a relationship of mutual appreciation and support, which we could call love. To be in a beech forest is to be invited into a loving relationship with the local ecosystem. It is not a competing force, but a welcoming place, where the soul finds nourishment – and God.

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