Friday, June 6, 2014

Straining to Hear

Despite the noise and the chaos here, nature makes herself seen, heard and felt. And whether she welcomes the instrusion or not, I have once again insinuated myself into her workings and persist in moving ever deeper into the heart of her many mysteries. From the wild vine that sways in the breeze outside my bedroom window to the remnants of last night's rain dripping from the roof and tapping just certain leaves, she makes her presence known to me.

Early in the morning, I strain toward the all-too-brief silences between the cars and trucks that disturb what would otherwise be a blessed calm of the sort that once was most likely the norm here along this road that runs along the river. And in between the hissings of rubber spinning endlessly on asphalt and the grinding of gears as large trucks downshift toward the town center, I hear the songs of creatures who insist on being heard no matter what. Birdsong comes to me at sunrise, the generic crow's call and the cardinal's bell-like melody, assuring me that all is well at least in their part of the world.

Humans are a noisy species, arguably the noisiest in all of nature. Just yesterday, I stopped at a store where a portable compressor sitting in the back of a truck was running full-bore. Several people stood not far from it talking, or rather shouting, to make themselves heard to each other above its din. As if that hadn't been enough to push the decibel level beyond any healthy limits, not to mention my own level of tolerance, two all-terrain vehicles pulled up and sat idling near the gas pumps for some time. The humid August air quickly filled with the smell of exhaust, and I could not exit that scene quickly enough.

Availing myself of nature's gifts, particularly the way in which she insists upon silence in all of her processes, has not always been easy since I left the woods a few months ago. But I remain ever vigilant of her presense in the random places, and I still do not allow my gaze to wander very far from her green respites that exist simply as backdrops here for the trappings of the human experience. This enables me to be privy at times to the sight of a hummingbird harvesting nectar from the flowers in a neighboring yard and to appreciate the weeds that insist on growing up through the cracks in the back-porch steps. If I honor that flurry that catches at the corner of my eye and turn toward it, I might see a flock of female house finches scratching at the dirt in the back yard or a chipmunk perched on top of a wide fence post surveying the limited landscape. I am grateful for the single sunflower that emerged unannounced from seed scattered by the birds beneath the feeder, and I make it a point to go outside if I so much as hear the sound of a leaf rustling in the wind. I look often to the skies here and am rewarded with spectacular cloud formations and glorious sunrises and sunsets. While none of these experiences come close to providing me with the deep sense of kinship with nature I once enjoyed, they are nonethless reminders of what is still out there for me to savor if I remember to stop, look and listen.

At this point in my life, I'd be fooling myself to think there is any chance that I will ever again find myself wrapped in nature's arms on a wooded hillside. So I wear her like a charm on my wrist now and keep her tucked in close to my heart. And wherever I go, I leave myself open to her ministrations, be they in the form of a stroll along a hiking trail or a climb along a rocky beach head. Fortunately for me, she is never far away, and she never fails to hear my cries for help.

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