Thursday, March 24, 2011


The vista before me is defying words, denying a camera.  Each branch, each twig, every small stalk of any kind is sheathed in ice.  In some lights and angles it is a forest dipped in pure silver.  In others, the sheer clarity of the ice is breathtaking.  Sun glimmering off of every slick surface gives no rest to the eyes.  Every craving I’ve ever had for glitter and sparkle, every strand of tinsel ever draped; it is indulged a thousand times over. 
In the dark of the pines, the ice has brought down hundreds of small branches, and the scent of pine sap reaches me.
Following my trail to the tree farm I stop to gasp at the entrance.  Large and small branches block my path, and I feel a certain reverence as I duck beneath ice encased trees.  I can’t help stopping to put a bare hand to the cold tree limb sealed tightly in its beautiful burden.
The tree farm is all that I had hoped for when driving past earlier.  I’d caught a tantalizing glimpse on my way home and was not disappointed.  On one side, each tree was normal, green and bristling.  But viewing the other face, like a two-featured mask, they were dripping with decorations one could never purchase at the store.  Every needle on that side, every pine cone and seed was draped in solid, sparkling crystal drops.  I thought of the phrase, “genuine Swarovski crystal” and laughed out loud in delight, realizing yet again how superior nature is to anything people might create or purchase.  At that moment, with my whole world spread out and shining, I wouldn’t have traded places with a queen.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Weekend

Running allows me to see things I've never seen before. Each time I do, I feel a wonder that I've been privileged in this way. I question whether anyone else has noticed and whether I'm the only one who finds these to be small miracles? Just Saturday I ran up a hill of the tree farm. This is the same hill I've encountered dozens of times on foot and on skis. On this Saturday morning it was frosty outside except where the sun had been wandering. Running south, the sun on my left, the Christmas trees on that side cast perfectly cone-shaped shadows, and each shadow was colored in with white frost also in the perfect shape of a cone. In between where there was no tree or shadow, the grass was dry and clean. There was something just so cool about seeing those frost shadows; I've never noticed anything like that before.

On my way home I stopped to let Tansy wallow at the in-between where the lakes meet. While she submerged herself, I turned to look out over the bigger lake and noticed a pair of mallards courting. They hopped up out of the water on to the sheer, thin ice and I waited for it to break. It remained firm and they slipped and slid, waddling on their little, orange webs, across the ice, and I wondered if they wondered why the water was hard.

Later I found that the sun was still beckoning, so Tansy and I went back to the woods, this time just to walk to my Watching Log. Well, walking, sitting, and relaxing was my purpose, but Tansy's was to entertain me by repeatedly whacking the backs of my legs with her muddy stick in an effort to entertain me by letting me throw the stick into the swamp for her. In between tosses, I was able to sit on a dry patch of fairy moss and breathe in the coming spring. The red-wings are back, and the geese that fly over now have a new element to their calls. The ferns haven't yet begun to unfurl, but I can pull away leaves and old ferns to see the tightly curled fiddle-heads-to-be. I saw few bugs, and only one basking snake. I walked out into the swamp as far as i could manage on the old fern hummocks. Just as I intended to make the leap to one at jumping distance, I took a closer look at the branch I intended to grab for balance. It's a good thing I checked because it was entirely bristling with the sort of thorns you'd find on an old fashioned rose bush. I wondered what it was, and began noticing more and more of them. I've never seen them before, and without leaves I couldn't identify it. Do roses grow in swamps?

Tansy paddled toward me with her stick in her mouth, happy eyes glowing above the floating, green duckweed. I hastily retreated, knowing that I'd soon be the recipient of a swampy shake. This is nothing like a Shamrock Shake. I continued my walk along the edge of the swamp, sticking as close to the water as possible without skewering myself on autumn olives or the mysterious thorn bushes. I remember reading that life is found on the edges. The edges where land meets water or the edges where one type of habitat changes to another. These are where I focus.

I notice a tree with a tiny wild rose plant sprouting in the fork of the two main trunks. It amazes me how life finds footholds everywhere we let it. (Not that humans let it hold much!) I am admiringly grateful every year that even after such a long, cold, snowy time, life comes back. Every year it does this. All winter I walk or run in that woods and think, "There will come a day when there are green things here and I will be wearing shorts." and every summer I walk or run in that woods and think, "There will come a time when I am bundled into my warmest clothes and there will be nothing but snow and ice here." Both times are hard to imagine when they are so far away in time and experience.

While lying on the Watching Log, I hear two crows snarking at each other. Perhaps they aren't, really, it's just their tone of voice, but it seems cranky. In a pause of their conversation, I hear the laughing bird, (I don't know who it is), laugh at whatever the crows have been saying. It makes me laugh too, though for all I know, they're talking about me. I don't really have illusions like that though; I have utter respect for that woods. I know it has nothing to do with me and it goes on whether I put words to the page or snap its picture or not. It is impossible to take personally anything that goes on there. It just IS.

This is probably what I love best about how I feel there. It is a place and time that I can also just BE. There is no doing. There is no anxiety or worrying. Just Being. No expectations, no deadlines, no needs. Whether I notice that cool, gnarled piece of tree knot, it will still be there. All that happens around me has nothing to do with me. The red log that I noticed 2 years ago when it began to get softer, spongier, and full of the little lives that help it break down, is now only a fibrous sort of dirt. By the end of summer, there will be no trace of it. This is another wonder. Nature manages itself quite well without us.

I follow a deer trail back out to the human trail. I see where they have come down to drink at the water's edge. I love the smell of the black swamp muck, rich with growth. Soon there will be turtles and tadpoles. I leave with my mind, body, and spirit back in line, readjusted and awakened to what matters. Things are only things, and I too will someday be only a sort of dirt, ready to grow new life.