The Winding Trail

Woodland TrailThe trail through the woods was little more than a worn set of tire tracks winding between trees and brush.

Jed had no idea where it would take him; he didn’t care.  He wasn’t aiming toward a destination. He just needed to get away from the rat race for a while.  His goal was simply to explore new ground and to see what he could see.

Sometimes, he figured, you just have to let life lead the way and see where it wants to take you.

The terrain he traveled would have seemed unremarkable to most, a homogenous stretch of tangled weeds, vines and trees.

But because he was looking, Jed saw the details– the shapes of the leaves, the variety of buds, berries and flowers, the textures of bark, the countless jeweled insects, how the grasses told where deer walked.

He marveled at the order within its complexity.  It was all one integrated, living system, each piece contributing to the other.

The trail, it turned out, ended at a small turn around by a creek with a small fire pit at its edge.   Beside the fire pit a worn plastic chair leaned against a tree.

Jeff sat down in the chair and watched the creek for a while.  It, too, he realized, was a winding trail, much like the one he had just followed.  And the trail that was the creek and the trail he had just traveled were part of a larger, living system, each piece contributing to the other.

It was dusk before Jed pulled onto the freeway that led him home, feeling more at peace than he’d felt in ages.   At the periphery of his vision, he saw the lights of the businesses and homes that lined the highway flashing by.  Overhead, he noticed the contrail of a jet leaving a trail in the sky.

And he smiled, understanding that it all fit together, and felt whole.

Fanfare for the Sun: A Happiness Tale

Wild sunflower“One last day,” thought August, preparing to make her final pirouette across time’s stage.   In the beginning, she had been unsure, thinking hers was a minor role in the procession of the seasons.

But now she understood that none of the months danced in vain.  Each had its own special light to give, even she.

She cast her gaze over the field, set now for September’s debut.  She had, she realized, danced summer away until it was but a lingering thought.

She had waltzed its bright greens into olives, and whisked in the cool morning mists.  She had ushered in the goldenrod and turned the thistle to seed.  The late summer berries were bright on their bushes.  Spring’s animal babies were grown and adding warm feathers and fur.  And everywhere, the crickets sang, filling the air with their song.

As she watched the morning’s shadows stretch their blues across the golden field, she bowed to the Sun King.  It was he, after all, who choreographed the dance.  She was both humble and proud to dance it.

And so, as the curtain rose on this, her last act, she leapt into the air, high and bold, and flung sunflowers in his honor, scattering them to all the corners of the field until every darkened place sang of his light.

Sky Dancing

Last Clouds from IreneFor three days, a storm the size of Europe swept up the East coast.  It was nothing personal.  The storm was nothing more than the interplay of forces that take no notice of human beings.

The winds and clouds had no idea of the havoc they were wrecking with their play.  Nor did they know that we who live 350 miles from their central stage reveled in their dance across our skies.  They danced because it is their nature.  They danced with wild abandon.

For three days, we could tear our eyes away from the sweeping drama.  Clouds that dwarfed mountains raced by, circling the horizon, dark as charcoal, whiter than snow, their shadows sweeping across the hills and fields with dizzying speed.

We sent our prayers on them to those whose lives were touched by their fury.  And we stood in awe of their majesty and power.

To see my 2-minute slide show of Irene’s Sky Dance, click here.  To watch in full screen mode, click the icon on the bottom of the viewer.

The Jeweled World

Gold butterfly on purple flower

As she pulled her cocoon around her, the tiny caterpillar had no idea what to expect.   She only knew that she had climbed a thousand stems and feasted on countless green, juicy leaves, and that she was quite ready for a long, unbroken sleep.

Last night, as she lay curled beneath the forest of towering grasses waiting for the dawn, a magnificent winged being appeared in her dreams and, in a voice more beautiful than any she had ever heard, told her it was time to prepare for her transformation.

Her cocoon was soft and welcoming and soon she drifted off into a sea of shifting colors and sweet sounds.

When at last she woke, she discovered that she was in a wholly different body than the one she wore before.  It felt strong, and it longed for sunlight and freedom.  And it was hungry, too.   She moved her new legs and pushed her way through a crack in the wall of her cocoon.

At first, she was dazed by the light.  It was far brighter than she remembered and filled with dancing colors.  She struggled to balance herself as she lifted her last foot from the cocoon, eager to see more.  But she could barely move.  A layer of wet, golden fabric of some sort was attached to her back and weighing her down.  She would, she decided, rest for a bit and get her bearings.

The morning sun felt warm and welcoming, and she gazed in wonder at the glistening world into which she had emerged.  Slowly the moisture dried from the fixtures on her back, and she discovered to her amazement that they were, in fact, wings.   She felt her life force pumping into them, spreading them wide.  And when she followed the urge to move them, she suddenly found herself airborne and flitting above the jeweled sea below her.

She somersaulted in the morning air, darting among the goldenrod and grasses, rising higher and higher, then darting down into the billowing ocean of grains and buds below.

Finally, after she had flown for several minutes, a spot of purple caught her eye.  “Why, that must be breakfast!” she said, feeling drawn to its royal hues.   And as she alighted on its feathery petals, she saw its pools of sweet nectar gleaming in the sun.

She hardly knew which was more beautiful, the taste of the nectar or the ornate design of the flower’s buds.  She only knew that this jeweled new world was heaven and that she was exceedingly blessed.

Bringing on Autumn

Wild aster.

.

The seasons move in baby steps.  Unless you’re paying attention, you don’t notice the changes any more than you notice the micro-changes in the mirror.  One day you wake up and it’s suddenly spring, or summer, or autumn (even in the looking glass).

But if you are paying attention, you see the signs.  A leaf springs out from a bud, or falls.  Hair beings to grow, or to disappear.  Foliage changes color.  You see the little creases begin around yours eyes.  Everything is in flux all the time.

Along the path through the field, wild asters are beginning to blossom.  Passersby may not take note.  We all have our different priorities.   But they make my heart beat with anticipation:  Here comes autumn!   Here is the prelude to her magnificent display.

Hints of Things to Come

Subtly Colored LeavesNature sends her little signals:  A thought, a daydream, a small swath of color on a late summer leaf.  On some level, we’re prepared for whatever is coming next.

And whether we know it or not, we participate in its design and prepare ourselves to welcome its arrival.  We begin to think about pulling our warm socks out from storage, about putting another blanket on the bed.  Ever so slightly we start to yearn for the texture of a freshly picked apple, for the fragrance of a pumpkin pie.

We don’t act yet.  It’s just a passing thought.

And outside our windows, here and there, leaves take on shades of crimson and yellow.

Ebb Waters

Low water at DamIt will change, of course.  Everything is always in a state of flux.

But now the creek’s waters are low, barely trickling over the little dam by the bridge.  Bright sunlight shines on levels that rarely feel it.

Below it, a skeleton tree trunk stands exposed, and rocks that are normally hidden.

It’s as if the stream’s subconscious has been laid bare and all the secrets it contained displayed.

Sometimes, when you feel most dry, when the flow and inspiration have pulled away, it is only so that sunlight can reach the dark places and forgotten memories be revealed.

March of the Corn

Ripened CornTall and proud in their regal dress greens, the corn stalks stand in regimented rows that stretch to the horizon.  They are the carriers of gold, the Great Mother’s gift to mankind, and this is the hour of their glory.

The obstacles they faced along the way—the grueling heat, the drenching rain—are behind them now and forgotten.  They met and overcame them, and the overcoming left them strong.

At night, you can hear their victory songs rising to the starry skies.  At dawn, you find that the dew has crowned their tassels with diamonds.

But it is here, at high noon, that they are at their best, these knights of the Order of the Sun, proudly bearing gold for the great harvest.

The Tree of Music

Black ElderberriesGrowing wild in the fields and hills, it seems a common shrub.   In the back country, some folks still gather the elderberry’s sapphire fruit for jellies and wines, antibiotic tinctures and salves.

But few remember  that once upon a time men blew through pieces of its hollow branches to bring the embers of a dying fire to life, or that they fashioned elk whistles, arrows and peace pipes from them, or that in the spring, they drove them into the veins of maples to tap the sap for syrup.

And further back in the mists of time, legend has it, they said the Queen of Faeries dwelt in its branches, she who bestows the spark of life itself to all, and they called it “the tree of music” for the sweet sound of flutes made from its branches.

I tell you all this so you will remember the magic that lies deep within our memories and everywhere in the world around us, even in shrubs so ordinary that we hardly pay them any attention at all.