Oak limbs and blue sky reflected in my spoon. Thousands of spring peepers were chorusing down by the bog lake. It was summer in spring; I could have kissed the mosquitoes that were biting my ankles. Next to me on a plate was a cinnamon bun, and I was alone and on a personal retreat. Just me and a warm meal outside.
I hiked down the hill to say goodnight to the peepers, watching the sandhill crane unfold its wings in an aggressive gesture toward the Canada geese. The frogs were so loud I wondered how my friend had once slept all night out here in their midst. As I turned to go back to the house, the silhouette of a Great Blue Heron came hurtling through the sky toward the black lake like an arrow.
ALIVE! ALIVE! it said.
I went to bed, drifting off to sleep without the usual need to draw close to my hubby’s warm legs. Who would have known that the resounding chaos of so many peeping frogs would transmit a feeling of safety?
A thunder bolt woke me in the early morning and I went to sit in the chapel. The door was cracked open to the chirping, singing, whirring, ribbiting, squawking, honking, whizzing, and trilling of the creatures outside. In spite of the darkness and rain all round, life was bursting its britches.
As the landscape brightened to daylight I hiked across the field, heading to a swampy area of the property. There the slow drops of rain were draining down to tips of twigs and plopping into the water. Then a funeral fiesta: the old stump was dressed in frilly fungi, a riot of shapes and delight attending its transmutation into the other world. Some were like cockleshells the color of New Mexican cliffs, others latticed orange mushrooms, and tight white rosettes set off against a sheet of green slime.
I felt like dancing! Truly, “Christ plays in ten thousand places”*—even on a decaying log in the swamp.
You let me catch my breath and send me off in the right direction, I thought, the words of Psalm 23 in the Message rising to my mind. Hovering over fungi in the forest, like a wondering child, I felt peace. The pressure of the weeds—“the cares and worries”—that had been choking my life out eased a bit. To step away from the job of life and play in the woods, watch its exuberant life, slow the step and thought to the pace of nature, this is a rhythm that changes my life, changes my seeing, my hearing.
The sweet, well-crafted words of Wendell Berry (The Peace of Wild Things) describe my experience eloquently:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
*Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem: “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”