Sometimes, and especially in new places, I start keeping a kind of list, a collection in my head, of things that nature impresses upon me. All along the way there are these gifts; do we notice them? When I start collecting I seem to remember to notice, to make it habit, and to receive them with gratitude. Here are a few from the past week:
1. Two coyotes playing in the woods at Occoneechee Mountain. They looked like they were fairly young and were bounding about quite happily, until they saw us – Tass with her ears perked up, and me peering closely, and fighting the urge to go and join in the fun. At night we can hear packs of coyotes howling, howling, long strains breaking into yips, voices joining one after another. I love it, this reminder that I am not alone nor solely among humans, and that the night, when we grow still and quiet, brings forth others who have much to say.
2. A bird’s nest made of horse hair, glittering with beads after a rainy morning. The walk in the woods that day was splendid, damp. There is so much green here, even this time of year, all the mosses and lichens, the trunks of trees. I knelt down in the leaf litter and dug through the layers, through the forest floor to the clay below. I just needed to touch it. The soil here is so unfamiliar; I know it is not as “good” as what we have back in the Midwest, but it fascinates me. I am beginning to love its redness. It belongs here, this way, you know, and it’s important to learn how we might grow things well in this place – respecting what a garden needs while also appreciating what the earth is.
Nearby a tree had fallen, and its base formed a wall of clay soil and various rocks; I dug at it a bit, shaped the clay in my palm, pulled the rocks out and felt them, ran my fingers over the velvety green at the foot of the trunk, and hungered for a book on regional ecology.
3. The moon hanging like a crescent-bowl in the sky on Valentine’s Day. The stars so, so spangly up above the pines. That, my friends, is a love-gift.
4. Yesterday Tass and I went walking a near trail, and we found a spot where we could slide down the muddy banks and climb onto a couple small boulders in the river. I sat there while she waded all around me, and the early afternoon light struck the water upstream of us. Everything was brown and golden; the water is murky green and moves just fast enough to be noticed; the temperature was 60 degrees and the sun warmed my face. I sat there and smiled, for I knew we had found a favorite spot, to be visited again, to watch change over the seasons.
5. And then, today! What happened today nearly outdoes the others – in any case, it was certainly winter flaunting herself (which I always appreciate). We woke up to snow falling – in such delicious wet flakes, big as a quarter, tumbling down slow as you please. I stood on the porch and looked up at the gray-white sky, at all those specks and each one of them different. Later the flakes grew smaller and fell faster, and soon the ground and all the limbs of the trees had a proper white coat over them. When I’d finished helping a friend pull up her floor, I went home and had a cup of tea and let the dim of evening settle in, and then I went walking through the woods. I love the white mysteriousness of snow at day’s end, especially inside a stand of trees. They say this kind of snow hardly ever happens here. I’m inclined to think North Carolina did it for me. Welcome, Northerner.
Why, thank you.