Yoga Retreat and Tamarack Trees Pt.1

A yoga center, McDonalds corporation, and the trees that make sense of it all.

song of the morning michigan

Peter Block Community: The structure of belonging

Isak Sommer covering Elliot Smith

Music by Isak Sommer covering Elliot Smith

Thanks to Dorothy and Song of the morning


Welcome to farming god, a podcast on disinterested spirituality and garden-variety philosophy.

When labeling trees, we first decide if they are coniferous or deciduous. Conifers have needle like foliage and normally produce seeds in cones. The most common being Pine, Fir, Spruce, and Cedar. Unlike deciduous trees, conifers never loose their foliage, remaining evergreen

Deciduous, are most easily identified by their annual leave shed. Deciduous is defined as “the dropping of a part that is no longer needed”, “ a falling away after its purpose is finished”. We humans are a bit deciduous ourselves. Beginning at birth our mothers shed the decidua, or uterine lining. Deciduous baby teeth are lost once we are weened from milk. Our hair is cut, nails trimmed, dead skin turned to dust.


I’m staying in Northern Michigan, on the edge of the Pigeon river state forrest. The area is full of deciduous trees like sugar maple, birch, oak. And conifers like Hemlock, spruce, and fir. I was taking a walk yesterday. And thinking about the simplicity of this distinction. Coniferous deciduous, deciduous coniferous. It seemed odd that nature would offer such a tidy distinction, so convenient for scientific classification.  It felt like a trap in a game of chess. A multiple choice answer that seems too obvious, or the last bunch of  perfectly ripe bananas in the produce isle. Mostly yellow. Hardly green. They will be great on oatmeal for at least the next 5 days. If it wasn’t for bottom banana number 6.  To the dismay of the dozens of patrons who have come before you, bottom banana is bruised. Without hesitation, each shopper sets the bunch back down mushing the bruise more and more until banana number 6 is no longer a solid and hardly a banana at all. Just a brown smoothy dripping from a peel, nourishing today’s generation of produce department fruit flies.


I’m on a walk. Looking at trees. That’s a Tamarack. They are native to Canada and stretch across the north eastern United States. Tamaracks grow 30-60 ft tall and 24 in. in diameter.

Because of their strong, light, and flexible wood, native American’s called them tamarackis, meaning “wood used for snowshoes.”

Wood for snow shoes, inner bark to treat infections, outer bark to relieve arthritis.

Today, we grind Tamarackis into a pulp… to make paper

Tamaracks appear to be conifers. They have spirally green needles and seed bearing cones. But they are also deciduous.  Every fall, shedding their needles. Tamaracks are Deciduous conifers. The exception to the rule. The essence of mother nature’s disinterestedness in silly human’s linear thought.

A series of strange spontaneous events lead me to song of the Morning yoga center this week. Over the next couple of episodes I’ll share some stories from the people here, in the woods of northern michigan, living a mile down a gravel driveway, over the stream, and to edge of the Pigeon river state forrest. Where Dorothy stays in the community, Brian, in the Winnibago, Justine in a pod, and I in a geodesic dome. More to come in the next weeks. Smoke signals at Meet dorothy.





It’s difficult to identify a Tamarack tree. They appear average. Just another conifer. Green needles, brown cones.

Spend some time with one, taste it’s bark, bend it’s limbs, watch its needles fall away after their purpose is finished. I wonder if then Tamarackis would be just another conifer.


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