She hiked along the deer trail, looking forward to seeing her old friend. High on the mountain ridge, Jessie sat down among the tree’s gnarled roots winding serpent-like through the red clay and rocks. She leaned back against the peeling bark of the juniper’s trunk, nestling into the welcoming embrace of the ancient tree. Jessie closed her eyes, soaking up the warmth of the sun as her mind wandered off into the events of the past week.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you.” The juniper tree’s voice awakened Jessie from her hazy rehashing of days gone by.
“I’ve been so busy,” Jessie explained, “running around getting ready for the holidays. I’m exhausted. And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.”
“Set aside your worries,” said the old tree. “Thanks-giving is already here. You’ll see. Just take a look around.”
Jessie looked out toward the western horizon, spotting deer in a distant meadow, not exactly sure what she was supposed to be looking for. “You celebrate Thanksgiving out here?” she finally asked.
“Always have. Always will,” replied the juniper tree. “Every day, as a matter of fact. Gift giving and receiving. Thanks giving and receiving. It’s all here in the circle of life.”
“Well, where I come from,” said the woman to the tree, “the giving of gifts and the giving of thanks are scheduled holiday events. And the funny thing is,” she leaned in closer to the tree, lowering her voice to reveal a long-held secret, “everybody seems pretty stressed.”
“Take a deep breath,” invited the tree. “And take another look around. This time, listen with every cell of your being. Feel through the eyes of your heart.”
Jessie sighed and leaned back into the juniper’s trunk. She gently touched the ground, feeling the warmth of the sun held in the soil and emanating from the rocks. She watched a flock of speckled birds fly from tree to tree feasting on plump juniper berries.
Jessie heard the tree’s whispers floating by on the winds:
“Giving and receiving are vibrant currents of energy, open and flowing and circling around from one to another and back. Unconditional giving, not an ounce of hesitation. Boundless receiving, wide-open welcoming of the gifts. Freely sharing gratitude and love. That’s how we weave the web of life.”
Jessie sat quietly, pondering awhile. Then she turned once again to face the juniper tree. “That seems so easy out here,” the woman confided, “with you and the birds, the sun and blue sky. But do you really think people can do this?”
The woman felt a sudden underground tremor. The powerful quaking moved through the juniper’s roots and up through the branches which shivered and shook, showering the woman with needles and berries. Ravens cackled and cawed, joining the contagious vibration of the juniper’s laughter rippling along the high mountain ridge.
“People can do this!” the tree exclaimed. “You’re part of the web of life.”
“Oh, yeah,” Jessie giggled, “I almost forgot.”
The woman and the tree, side by side on the ridge, rooted deep in the earth and warmed by the sun, felt the beauty and delight in the sharing of their joy.
When the sunset painted the sky purple and red, Jessie understood it was time to hike down the deer trail and back over the mountain ridge. She stood up and brushed spiky green needles from her hair and blue juniper berries from her lap, sharing with the earth the nourishments given by the ancient tree.
Reaching into the woven bag she carried, Jessie found the handful of shimmery pebbles she’d collected earlier that day. She gently placed the stones on the gnarled roots of the ancient tree before continuing on her way.