Searching for Safe Haven?


The tail end of winter finds me seeking the promise of spring. So with the weather forecast calling for a balmy 48 degree high, I headed for the respite of the high desert to absorb the sun’s rays—and contemplate life under the boughs of a tree.

Just east of Bend, Oregon, I hiked among Western Juniper trees—which carpet about 8 million acres of semi-arid land in the Northwest. The pungent, woody fragrance of this tree calms me and conjures up scenes the Wild West and simpler times.

Stand of Western Juniper

Stand of Western Juniper

And the tree is a haven for bird life.

Ecologists christen the juniper tree a “microsite”—a small pocket of habitat with unique environmental conditions (i.e.temperature, sunlight, nutrients) tucked within a larger ecosystem. This is of key importance to birds.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Photo credit: Roger Lynn)

In winter’s beak chilling cold, the Juniper provides a natural rest stop for birds—a regular old “Motel 6” for weary birds–with a snack on the branches and a protected bed in the boughs.

“During one frigid day, a single robin or Townsend’s solitaire may gulp down more than 200 berries. Juniper berries aren’t very tasty,” says Thomas Barnes a University of Kentucky extension professor.

Yet the birds don’t seem to mind. Watch the robin and a cedar waxwing dine in the branches of a juniper.

But you don’t have to fly and have feathers to find the Juniper beneficial. I also found solace under the Juniper tree.

Under the Juniper Tree

Under the Juniper Tree

The peace in this solitary stand of trees was palpable. A lone male bluebird perched atop a tree. The wind rustled through the branches stirring the scent of juniper and sage into nature’s perfume.

While sitting under the tree, I was reminded of Elijah, who during a time of severe distress and discouragement met with God under a tree. Sometimes life is like that.  Other times we are blessed with moments of satisfied stillness.

Richard Foster, in his book, Sanctuary of the Soul, shares a story in which he walked in the woods seeking solace. As he prayed, he heard an “inward whisper, a deep speaking into the heart:”

If you will be with me you do not have to have all your desires satisfied. With me is ultimate and complete satisfaction. If you are genuinely with me you are in the best place possible.”

Satisfied or not, the key is to be with God.

That is the safe haven we can count on–no matter our circumstances. And for that, I am thankful.


Have you spent time under a tree recently? Take time today and talk with God.

And Isaac went out to mediate in the field at the eventide.” Genesis 24:63 KJV

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About the Author

Carol O'Casey


  1. Wonderful post so beautifully written! It seems like winter will never end here in the Midwest, so it’s especially nice to read about the promise of spring in your area. Surprisingly, a Townsend’s Solitaire (rarely seen here) decided to spend the winter of 2013/14 not far from us. The area it chose is rich with juniper berries.

    An appreciative thank you for the kind remarks you left on my recent blog post!

    • Carol O'Casey

      Thanks for your kind words, Julie. I love your blog Nature’s Splendor. Your photos are simply amazing–the photo of the Townsend’s Solitaire with Juniper berries reminded me of my area. And the snowy owl photos–well I’m in awe. Oh, and for the record–just three weeks until spring arrives :)

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