Imagine walking to the mailbox, afternoon after afternoon. Out the front door, down the three circular wooden steps onto cement and grass and gravel. To your right lies a garden (in springtime newly planted) and to your left a tall oak tree spreads its arm-branches to the sky in reverence, seeking light through waving leaf hands.
Keep walking, oh you retriever of postal bills and junk mail and occasional treasures from the pens of friends and family. Keep walking, steadfastly, with sneakers or sandals or clunky winter boots. Do not go barefoot. You’ll regret that urge. Gravel will welt into your tender soles and you’ll be limping back to the house before you reach the garage.
Continue past yonder garage into the realm of the frog pond, where cattails push upwards from underwater depths. It’s really a small pond, hardly bigger than a yawn. Yet it’s nourishing to pause here and breathe and look beyond its perimeters into the woods.
In springtime–oh in springtime–a most lovely unfurling takes place. Life pushes forth, expands, sings, calls, croaks, slithers, dances, births. Something elementally emerges from winter’s long death-pause. It’s something you will feel in your body, if you’re not hurrying or lost in thoughts and plans and memories.
That’s the key to being present as you walk to the mailbox. “There’s an invitation to drop beneath our fascination with thought,” as my spiritual teacher says. Instead, notice what’s here besides that string of syllables appearing in your mind.
There’s plenty else here. Oh you ferns! Oh you lupine leaves! Oh the way the sun shines in spring lime greens (as my friend from Arizona, who once lived in northern Michigan) might say. She still swoons with the thought of scintillating lime spring greens. And how I appreciate her observation, because I never once thought of spring vibrancy as lime.
Every once in a while a woods animal will appear on your walk to the mailbox. A big fat bullfrog. A frolicking chipmunk with curious expression on its cute little face. A defiant squirrel, hollering its territorial boundaries. A lone chickadee perched atop a bare branch. A cawing blue jay. Startled doe. Sometimes, precious sometimes, a nuzzling fawn!
And this spring–you might become acquainted with a partridge.
Once upon a spring partridge. Coming out to greet you almost every day on your meander to the mailbox. “Mama partridge, mama partridge!” you might call as you pass the frog pond. “Where are you, Mama partridge?”
And soon, sure enough, you hear rustles in the leaves–sometimes to the right, other times to the left–and here comes Mama Partridge. All the way out onto the gravel she comes. Sometimes three feet from you. Forward, then retreat. Forward, then retreat again. She’s clucking and pecking at gravel and dirt.
You know she’s leading you away from her nest. She’s playing decoy. Somewhere eggs lie warm and round under this spruce tree, or that spruce tree, and she’s hatching her brood, the yet-unborn lovelies that will someday sound their drum-beat throughout the woods.
Except. How do you KNOW that yonder partridge is a Mama? What if–you gotta love nature–this fine lovely is actually a Papa? What if it’s Papa Partridge who greets you daily on the way to the mailbox? What if Mama sits quietly on the nest, day after spring day, and Papa surveys the woods and distracts passersby and mailbox-visitors?
If so, Papa gets A-plus for his distraction skills, doesn’t he? What a fine job, Papa! You’ll get so very close, but not close enough to stroke your long ruffed feathers.
How interesting you make these spring walks to the mailbox!
Once upon a partridge. How quickly spring turns toward summer. Soon the egglings will hatch. Will we see little ones following Mama, waddling like ducklings by the frog pond?
New mysteries to greet our eyes each trip, if we’re not completely lost in the movie of our thoughts, if we’re not completely bound up in our personal mini-dramas that seem so very important.
Now, if you choose, open that mailbox and see what other mysteries await you in this wide and infinite Universe.
Sending you love from our neck of the Upper Peninsula woods, Kathy