This afternoon–this beautiful 72 degree afternoon–I aimed to set off to the depths of the forest.
Would you like to come along? Here are the ground rules. We won’t be talking much while we’re in the woods. We’re here to learn, to listen, to see what nature wants to reveal.
Let’s walk carefully. The branches are noisy when they crack and splinter underfoot. Let’s pause frequently and look carefully in crevices and on logs. Hear the wind blowing in the spruce? Doesn’t it feel exquisite to be back in the woods with springtime ready to burst around us?
OK, good find. Glad to have you along. I like your sharp eye–the way you spotted the Incredible World inside that rotting tree. You pointed silently and we snapped photos of that eerie quiet interior world of a dying tree. Isn’t it magical? Do you see how easy it would be to pass it by if we were chatting?
Now. Here we are. Let’s plop down beneath this old spruce.
“Why?” you whisper.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “You never know why you do anything out in the woods. You let your instincts take over. They decide if you’re hiking two miles or if you’re sitting two hours. We’re suppose to be here. Let’s just sit….shhhh.”
Now, let’s be quiet. And I don’t mean simply not talk. Let’s not even think. Let’s just watch and listen and let nature speak. When a thought arises, let’s return our gaze to the dried leaves, the rustling, the chickadees chirping.
Silence…golden silence. The mind still. Suddenly: activity! Everywhere! Oh my goodness! A fierce and wild rustling from all directions. What can it be?
Without moving our heads even a smidgen, look out the corner of your eyes. My goodness! We’re sitting amidst a Chipmunk Kingdom. We’ve been lured to the Chipmunk Kingdom by nature to learn something from the little ones. Or maybe to simply experience their world.
Shhh…don’t you dare think much. If you do, they’ll know we’re humans. Let’s just be as still as the spruce trees.
The little fellas creep closer. They pause. Sometimes shake their tails in indignation. Stare. Their lower lip quivers. Do you see their quivering lower lips? They scamper off, atop branches. The forest returns to silence. Maybe ten minutes pass. They return. Three of them! They stare. One holds food in his mouth. One of them dives after the other, and they scramble in a little chipmunk deviltry or maybe mating-craziness before they scamper off again.
“How long do we have to stay here?” you finally whisper after an hour or so. Or maybe you only thought it. Or maybe I thought it.
“Until a chipmunk climbs on one of our laps,” I reply. And I mean it. We’re not leaving until then.
Suddenly I’m thinking. Remembering a story I read somewhere. Not about chipmunks, but about squirrels. About someone sitting in the forest–just like us–when suddenly a squirrel ran in his lap and bit him! Just like that! To find out if he was food. Oh no! What if this little chipmunk runs into our laps, takes a look at one of our juicy plump fingers, and bites it? What if? Now my thoughts are running helter-skelter, faster than the chipmunks. The chipmunks bolt for the Green Beyond!
“We can go now,” I say calmly to you. “That’s enough for today.”
Here is what I learned in the Chipmunk Kingdom today:
1. Chipmunks are cautious around unknown humans.
2. Humans are sometimes cautious around unknown chipmunks.
3. Anything can happen in the woods!
I’m sure you learned something equally profound. And your lesson from the chipmunks today was…? (And if you can’t bring to mind your lesson from the chipmunks, let’s re-phrase the question: And your lesson from nature today was…?)