It sometimes takes a long time–a truly long time–maybe even years, or decades, or a lifetime–for one to learn how to truly become quiet in the woods.
So quiet, so still, that there is no difference between you and the landscape, between you and nature.
Until you realize fully that you are nature itself in your stillness, in your activity, in your very essence.
Of course, I have not yet learned this completely. But the woods continue to teach me every time I open the door and walk outside.
Nature continually sings a quiet song that invites us all to sit upon the ground and to listen to something beyond the ever-yakking thoughts that skitter faster than two squirrels chasing each other up a spruce tree.
Sit awhile, the earth says, and truly see.
There’s an entire world birthing in front of your two eyes and you’re missing so much. I’ll teach you, if you want.
Just sit quietly.
So I sit. And, maybe, so do you. We don’t talk. We don’t make pretty conversation or entertain one another with hopes, desires and regrets.
Instead, we watch ants crawl, flies buzz, plants grow. (Our minds may fuss for a while, insisting this is not fun. Never you mind. Just sit longer, not pushing the fussing away, but not indulging it either.)
Breathe in the spring scent, the mold in rotting autumn leaves, the humus for a new season.
Breathe in damp earth and bare branches waving in a bright blue sky.
Breathe in the amazement that it’s spring and most of the snow has melted away!
Look around nature to see what the eye might too easily dismiss as it looks for more excitement or entertainment. It may want the raucous dance of mating woodpeckers (like you may have seen this morning, those two bright males dancing around a maple, showing off their stuff, trying to impress that nearby female) but nature itself is often less flashy, less a show-off.
See the way a woodpecker beat its beak against bark, munching on snacks of insects? What patterns! How loudly the woods speaks in its silence at times.
Notice a smooth rock resting against moss. How did it get here? From a child, twenty-five years ago, who dragged it into the forest from Lake Superior? Does it matter? Here it sits, speaking its silent stone-song, so quiet that it might take until next summer to decipher its rock-language.
Or you might understand it right now.
Our tame chipmunk from last summer has not returned, but I am romancing this little fellow. She (I have not ascertained sex, but am intuiting she’s a she) acts interested but remote. The above and below photo were taken a few mornings ago, when the snow still littered the ground, before 70 degree (21 C) temperatures caused some of us to swoon in delight and trek into the snow-less woods.
However–and this is entertaining news, just in!–after I sat patiently, oh so patiently, for minutes upon minutes, days upon days, I proffered a handful of seeds and the chipmunk nibbled them oh-so-daintly from this hand before scurrying away.
For those of you who’ve known me for many years–please note Grandma’s 1969 snowmobile suit in the next picture. It still fits, just barely. Last spring I finally found needle and thread and sewed her up nicely, the better to ensure the suit’s survival until 2019 and beyond.
Enough of this noisy porch-talk. Back to the woods.
Even though the woods speak most clearly when thoughts seem quieter, it can be quite loud.
Down the road a chainsaw roars, perhaps clearing away downed branches from our heavy snowfalls.
Chickadees chirp. Blue jays caw. Ravens croak. Deer crush dried leaves with their hooves, giving away secret locations, twitching whitetails as they look warily about.
And sometimes–the best sound of all–and I’ve only truly heard it a few times over the years–you can actually hear grass growing through the forest leaf clutter.
It’s so delightful to become reacquainted with the woods in spring-time. Why, wild flowers may be birthing any day now!
If you have twenty minutes or two hours and know of a patch of dry earth outside your door, I invited you to sit quietly on an old log and listen. Don’t give up immediately. Give yourself time to relax, to breathe, to let everyday thoughts dissolve or lessen. It’s the sweetest kind of meditation.
Listen. There’s so much to learn in the silence of moss, tree, sky, slanting spring sunlight.