Prayer of the Woods

Vicky Pitner   -  

Last Friday, more than a billion people all over the world celebrated Earth Day for the 52nd year. Held annually on April 22, Earth Day was created to raise awareness of environmental issues and develop strategies on ways to protect the planet from things like pollution and deforestation. Taking part in community activities such as picking up litter or planting trees, the world together to make our earth a healthier and happier place to live.

My appreciation of the outdoors began when I was very young and my parents took me and my two sisters camping in the Great Smokey Mountains. I can recall how happy I was to be outdoors and to be with the most important people in my life.

I think my mother was an early pioneer of the planning of Earth Day, as she taught us to always leave the campsite cleaner than we found it, don’t take anything from the mountains, and explore with our eyes. My dad taught me the “one match campfire” and basic safety skills. Camping continued to be an important hobby to me, even as an adult, but somehow life happened and I stopped camping. However, something awakened my soul recently and after a 20-year respite of not camping, I rekindled my hobby, and my puppy and I headed to the woods.

On our first hike, we came across the Prayer of the Woods, printed on a large placard standing tall and regal at the trailhead. I was in awe. I think it meant that trees speak to us and reminds us of how useful trees are to us. Because it is located at the trailhead the prayer would set the tone of appreciation for the journey through the forest. But I then thought that this poem is really a metaphor comparing the forest to a person’s life.

I thought about the families that I work with who are supporting a loved one living with dementia and sometimes may not see the forest for the trees. Caregivers are standing in the middle of the forest, with the trees up close and personal, solving problems, meeting other people’s needs, or just standing and feeling overwhelmed. Because of this they will miss the beauty of the whole person and will not experience opportunities to create and share joyful moments with their family member.

If you are caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia and are having trouble seeing the forest, step back, breathe and try looking again.

If you would like more information on our Memory Ministry, Memory Cafe, or our Virtual Caregivers Support Group, please contact Vicky Pitner at