Clouds strung on sky lines
Billowing sheets of rain
Gusty spring breezes
Every walk in the woods is an unfolding of new discoveries. It is easy in our complacency to see what we know, what we have names for. There are the glacier lilies, a shooting star, the leaves of a lupine sprouting in the spring wet ground. There are the first green bristles of the larch, the cones being plucked from the Douglas Fir by the greedy squirrels. We take comfort from seeing these things that we expect to see, feel a certain smugness and self-satisfaction in being able to identify them, maybe even say their names, narrow them to species.
But these are not the things that bring revelation. Revelation comes when you stumble across the scattered bones of a half eaten deer and see the white hairy scat of the coyote and you remember the night, just a few nights ago, when you heard the yipping which increased in tempo, when you could almost hear the keening of celebration and death in the long crescendos of the howling and you know you are standing on sacred ground where one life fed many others and was transformed.
Revelation comes when you see a track in the muddy ground that you cannot name, but you follow it anyway and find the logs where it disappears, only to search for the place where it comes out the other side, bobbing and weaving across the meadow like a drunkard. Then you find where they stop abruptly in scuffled ground near the base of a tree. And you can only guess at the end of the story. An ending that came with the beat of silent wings or a leap of faith up the tree trunk to safety.
A long walk in the backwoods, across the stagnant water still sitting in the channel behind the fence–leftover from the spring runoff–now nothing more than a mucky breeding ground for mosquitoes. Out to the pond which lays still and murky. Not even a water skipper to riffle it’s surface. Reflecting the grey cloudy sky, it looks like an empty hole in the field. Walking across the grassy meadow above it, the sky is silent in the muggy midday heat. No sign of the redtail hawk soaring overhead. No sound of chickadees or meadowlarks or even the plaintive keening of the mourning doves. The grass stands brown and brittle not even twitching in the heavy air. Even the heron rookery is quiet, the only sign of life a beak sticking out of one deep nest, barely visible even with binoculars through the thick net of cottonwood leaves.
I head back toward the pond, my eyes searching for new blooms of wildflowers, but the only color in the grass is the noxious leafy spurge. My mind drifts, finding nothing interesting to settle on and pretty soon my thoughts are already far away, worrying and planning. Nothing. There is nothing worth writing about today, no insights, no connections, no revelations. Only my bare ankles being rubbed by the toxic leaves of the knapweed, raising tiny itchy welts.
I bend down to scratch them and then suddenly, out of the sky the bright flash of something dropping to the grass two feet from my nose. I look up to see the low flying W wings of an osprey circle once, then head back towards the river. And there, in the grass is the silvery fish, an offering to the writer starved for a subject.