Arbor Day is the one day of the year set aside officially to celebrate and honor the role of trees in our lives. And they deserve all the celebration and honor we can offer them, as we literally owe our existence to them. They are the lungs of the earth; they offer us the gift of breath.  They’re wisdom keepers and great healers for humanity, for the earth and for the waters of our planet. They are irreplaceable.  These profound life forms bless our world.

Sixyears ago, in 2012, I had no idea about Arbor Day.  Now it’s the highlight of my year.

It was Hurricane Sandy who woke me up when she hit the ground and stormed and surged and swept away everything in her path. It took her only hours to flatten homes, dislodge families, and to leave birds and animals confused and without protection. In addition, trees toppled to the ground. Those profound life forms fell by the thousands.

It was a deadly, record-breaking, heart-breaking storm that swept us away with emotions as tumultuous as the winds, and left our lives as scrambled as the landscape.  We were knocked off balance perhaps as a correction to the imbalance being imposed on Mother Nature.

As we do when our lives are disrupted, when a catastrophic event erupts personally, politically or on our own beloved planet, we wonder:  What can I do?  In the overwhelm of the aftermath, when the winds settled down and the panic had subsided, I felt compelled to act. I wanted to do something to contribute to the healing and to honor the loss of trees.  The question, What can I do? initiated a journey into the exploration of Who can I be?

One thing I can do, I thought, is offer Ceremony.  The very best in me shows up in ceremony.  I’m a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant.  I recognize the power of ceremony to heal, to connect, to guide and to bless humans in the unfolding of their life’s journey. We celebrants create and officiate ceremonies to honor all milestones and transitions and relationships of individuals, couples and families. We’re called on to officiate weddings, funerals, baby blessings and all the other stages of life in between.

I had officiated at many ceremonies for humans, but I’d never been called to officiate at a ceremony for trees. No one had ever made that call.

After witnessing the loss of so many trees, my celebrant colleague, Woody, and I made the call ourselves. We figured we could create a ceremony, share it with another thousand celebrants and they could offer it in their communities for a global Arbor Day ceremony. Pretty soon, we thought, we’d have people all over the world offering their own prayers and blessings for all the trees and all the forests.

We loved our idea and thought we could whip up some guidelines and get a ceremony out for distribution in no time at all.  Swept up into the turmoil of the high gusting winds of good intention but limited experience, ‘No time at all’ turned into almost 2 years before our consistent and heart-felt efforts bore fruit.

Graced by the timely guidance and invitation of a remarkable indigenous ceremonial leader, I ventured out to New Mexico to spend time on the sacred land of a community dedicated to prayer and ceremony for the healing of Mother Earth. In this powerful place, in the intense heat of the summer and the magnificent beauty of the red desert, I offered my intention and waited for the answer. The next day, I offered my intention and waited for the answer.  I did that every day for days.

In the ceremonies and sweat lodge, I invoked all the powers and asked them to reveal all the elements needed for this tree ceremony.  As the days past, I became frustrated and anxious; I couldn’t understand why the answer didn’t come!

After all, this was quite a selfless undertaking, an offering in service to our planet. All I wanted were some elements I could draw from to create a ceremony. I was doing all the right things to get the right result. Only there were no results. The discarded drafts strewn on the floor resembled the debris left in the wake of Sandy, and I felt disheartened.

Although the creation of this ceremony seemed so far out of reach, I persevered. Slowly I softened my grip on the need for the production and distribution of a carefully choreographed ceremony with a timeline and a release date. I walked the land, I sat with the trees, I offered my prayers and eventually a new awareness emerged from the debris.

The way into this ceremony was through the depth of my gratitude for trees and the sincerity of my prayers for their wellbeing.  Saying thank you for the gifts bestowed on me everyday by Mother Earth and the trees was essential for the potency of the experience of the ceremony.

And so, the heart of the ceremony was revealed as this simple expression of gratitude:  “I recognize the gifts you offer me and I am grateful. I recognize the gifts you offer me and I am willing to actively engage in offering expressions of my gratitude to you.”

Saying thank you and making offerings is a practice traditional to many cultures around the world, and has been enacted in ceremony since ancient times. Ceremony encourages me to remember that my wellbeing is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of Mother Earth and with the trees, and it gives me the opportunity to offer my blessings for their nourishment. Every time I offer my gratitude and blessings, I’m actively participating in my role as caretaker of Mother Earth.

And so, six years and many ceremonies later, I’m blessed to share this ceremony with so many others who respond to the call and want to help nourish this precious planet.  After the very first ceremony Woody and I offered, one of the participants wrote us: “I left the tree ceremony unable and unwilling to look at trees the same way.  We crossed a threshold into the deepest place of connection in the most meaningful way.  I came back into my everyday life in an expanded relationship with them.”

Imagine standing in a circle around one of these magnificent benefactors of life, offering your gratitude, your song and your blessings and deeply experiencing the awareness that these simple acts of generosity having the power to heal, nurture and sustain.

These very acts have more than answered my question “What can I do?” They have guided me to reconcile my relationship with Mother Earth through offering my blessing to the trees.

Now I share this blessing with you and encourage you to offer your heartfelt gratitude to the trees, knowing that this simple act of generosity has the power to heal.

​“Beloved Tree, by your existence
my life is sustained and nurtured.
By your existence I live and love.
I offer you my gratitude.
May you be protected, nourished,
healed and sustained.
May you, and all trees, and all forests
Be recognized and cherished.”


Rani Findlay is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who offers her services in the Berkshires and around the world. Rani and Woody Winfree co-founded For A Tree, an initiative that exists to inspire individuals, small circles and communities into closer relationships with trees through ceremonies of gratitude for all trees that sustain life on Mother Earth. The photos in this article were taken from Rani’s 2018 Arbor Day ceremony at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA.