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The Search for Solace in the Troodos Mountains

Updated: Mar 12

This post took me over two and a half months to write.

I love practicing meditation in nature, spending entire days wandering aimlessly through natural spaces, breathing in the untouched areas, and focusing my consciousness on trees—mostly oaks—plants, and the soil, along with what they bring with them. Sometimes I encounter new trees, sometimes wolves and other animals. In recent years, these journeys have mirrored processes I undergo in my life, as nature serves as a canvas through which the mirror of awareness reflects back at me and my consciousness. Over the past few years, trees have led me on deep journeys through the labyrinths of my consciousness, to profound acquaintances with my reality perception mechanisms, and with the creature that is me.

In the last year, I've struggled to find peace in Israeli nature reserves and forests: noise from shooting ranges, explosions from quarries, the buzzing of drones, ATVs, and motorcycles, lots of litter, damage by farmers to protected wildlife with the authorities' support, overgrazing of sheep and cattle causing severe damage to forest regeneration, and other nuisances have made days spent in nature a not-so-simple challenge, mainly reflecting the general mood in the area. The land is not quiet, nature is not calm, the creature has not found its home, and the search for relief continues.

Israel's forests have suffered much over the years, and the local recovering forest mainly consists of young trees. It's rare to find an Israeli forest with wild old trees, not as part of a sacred site or a memorial space. Most of the Israeli forest consists of young and age-uniform trees that grew since the establishment of nature reserves and does not offer the depth of experience a mature forest does. Therefore, I decided during the summer to try and locate wild Mediterranean forest areas in Cyprus, hoping there I could wander for days without disturbance, to explore and meditate.

At the beginning of October, I flew to Cyprus for five days with my then-partner to search for oak forests. In Cyprus, a phenotype of the gall oak (Quercus infectoria) reaches significant dimensions. On the first day, we indeed found a magnificent tree (check the title photo), but it was close to a village and not part of the wild nature. Many wanderings in the Troodos Mountains did not yield suitable realities: most of the oak forest did not survive there either, and beyond the local golden oak bushes (Quercus alnifolia), which remain very modest in their dimensions and do not even provide shade, I did not find a forest worthy of the name. Although it is possible to encounter impressive oak and pistacia trees in Cyprus, they are mostly solitary trees preserved in village areas or between agricultural fields, and I failed to locate a large area for wandering in the forest.

During the journey, I started to experience breathing difficulties, which had begun earlier in the summer - shortness of breath reminiscent of allergy or asthma, health issues I had never suffered from before.

After nearly giving up on our goal, we decided to tour the beautiful Troodos Mountains, accepting what the local nature provides. At the top of the central mountainous region of Cyprus, there are beautiful black pines (Pinus nigra ssp. Pallasiana) and junipers (Juniperus foetidissima), some centuries old, offering very strong views, but this is not a forest in the traditional sense, and the trees do not provide shade or comfort.

Black pine and juniper trees carry deep spiritual symbolism in various cultures. The black pine, known for its resilience and majestic stature, symbolizes endurance and immortality. Its ability to thrive in harsh conditions makes it a metaphor for overcoming difficulties and standing strong against challenges. The juniper, with its evergreen character and pleasant scent, is associated with protection, purification, and healing. In folklore, juniper is believed to ward off evil spirits and negative energies, making it a common choice for purification in spiritual rituals. Both trees remind us of our deep connections with the earth and its enduring spirits.

On a Thursday in October, we spent an entire day in the mountains, marveling at a beautiful landscape and very impressive trees. However, the trip did not provide much relief. A very sad atmosphere hung over the space among the coniferous and old treetops, and the strong energy I usually receive from old oaks and holm oaks in previous years was not provided by the pines and junipers. The black pines, not native to Israel, exuded resin in unusual amounts, many of the old trees were injured and wounded, and a great sadness prevailed in the space. My breathing difficulties reached their peak. Pine resin is known for its ability to alleviate breathing problems - therefore, I collected some, rubbed it on my chest, and ate some, but relief did not come, and my breathing difficulties grew to the point of actual suffocation.

The trees cried with the magnificent landscape, and melancholy enveloped everything. In vain, I searched for one large oak for comfort, to sit under it and feel its protective power.

The next day, Friday, the sixth of October, the depression was already present and clear. An exploratory drive led us to meet the largest of the local oaks - a tree with a large trunk in advanced decay, far from its original size and glory. The tree, echoing the entire journey and, contrary to my experiences with large oaks in the past, provided neither comfort nor support, and became a resonance box for an unclear sadness and growing respiratory distress.

On the seventh of October, at six in the morning, we flew back home. We landed at eight in the morning: it was the last flight that entered at those hours. The suffocation and sadness found their explanation, and to this day, the black pines of Cyprus haunt my consciousness. The relationship did not survive the journey and the difficult days that followed. The pine resin survived, and it is here with me, wondering about its role, and I, about mine.


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