Tag Archive 'the cycle of life'

Sep 28 2017

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First Autumnal Walk

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A long bout of unseasonably warm weather broke last night, with a cold front ushering in autumn. Never mind that the Autumnal Equinox took place nearly a week ago. For all practical purposes, the season began today.

The trees started turning weeks ago, of course. But the real color won’t come out until we get a few frosty nights. That should happen soon.

I went for a walk in the woods this afternoon, trying to get my bearings after a ten-day road trip back to Ohio to see my dying mother. A dysfunctional health care system, rude drivers on the highway, credit card fraud, and the madness of civilization in general – there was plenty to keep me off balance during the trip. But all that dissipated during my short walk on the trail. Then there was only sadness.

The first fallen leaves scattered across the trail. Acorns dropped as a gentle breeze whispered through the trees. A touch of color. What usually brings me joy this time of year, brought only sadness.

I might see my mother again before she dies; I might not. If I could have a wish granted right now, it would be to walk through the woods with her one last time, enjoying the early autumnal color together. But there comes a time when one must simply let go. So I walked in sadness.

No matter the season, the forest is always beautiful. And always there are fallen trees on the ground even as others reach towards the sky. The forest, in all its beauty, is full of living and dying. So it goes.

Hard to say when exactly the first frost will come. But it will come. I look forward to the colorful display that will follow. Then I will go for another walk. Perhaps the sadness won’t be weighing so heavily on me by then. Perhaps it will be worse. The autumn forest will be beautiful regardless.



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Apr 06 2015

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Eternal Renewal

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NiqBay.AprilEarly spring. A few patches of ice and snow still linger on the forest floor, and the ground is still frozen beneath a few inches of cold mud. No matter. My dog Matika and I are on the move at the beginning of yet another warm season. With temps just barely above freezing, I use the word “warm” loosely here, of course.

To those of us who revel in eternal renewal, it is quite clear what is happening. Slowly but surely, the natural world is awakening from its long winter sleep. The forest and fields are still brown for the most part, but the robins have returned, the squirrels are busy, and streams are roiling with snowmelt. The first flowers are still weeks away, but I am encouraged by the give of soft earth underfoot.

I amble down the trail following my younger self. A year older and slightly less agile, I marvel at this wild world full of growth and decay. Already the buds of trees are swelling. Already pine cones are chewed to pieces. Of the thousands of acorns beneath my boots a few are already on their way to becoming great oaks, while the bones of newly fallen trees litter the forest floor. Nature is cold and cruel, yet it is also warm and embracing. It changes faces with the seasons. Now begins a more ambient season.

Eternal renewal. With each passing year, I travel farther away from a supernatural god and closer to a natural one. Wild places fill me with awe. I see in them a power that trumps all human ambition – the endless, dynamic interplay of elemental forces and the countless forms that they take. I am in love with the world even as it slowly saps my strength, pushing me ever closer to my inevitable demise. Why? Because the wild and I are one in the same, because there is a part of me that will never die – the part of me that is nature. I worship it with every breath I take. Nature exists! All is not chaos.


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Oct 28 2010

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All Hallows Eve

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The remnant of a grand old tree still stands at a trail junction in nearby woods where I roam on a regular basis.  I’ve walked past it fifty times, at least.  Years back, shortly after the tree finally died, the rotting trunk of that tree rose nearly twenty feet from the ground, threatening to fall and crush a passer-by on any given day.  But now it is only the shadow of its former self.  Shadow indeed – a ghost reminding us of a once vital life form, now passed away.

In late autumn, when the trees drop their leaves and the forest turns many shades of brown and dark gray, the remnants of dead and downed trees become more apparent.  This is their time of year, when the growing season has ended and the harvest has been taken in.  Death is in the air.  I am not oblivious to it.  Few woods wanderers are.

All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as it is more commonly known, is only a few days away.  Based on Samhain, the Celtic festival of summer’s end, this holiday was hijacked by the Christians during the Middle Ages and transformed into All Saints Day.  And the night before it became All Hallows Eve – a night to venerate the dead.  But that doesn’t change the essence of it.  It is a night when the dead mingle with the living, when life and death, vitality and dormancy, abundance and barrenness, darkness and light are in perfect balance.  The forest itself is shouting this at us.

Here in northern Vermont, winter is only a few weeks away.  It comes at us hard and fast – sometimes before we can even rake up our leaves.  Already snow has fallen in the mountains.  Already the wooly worms are dressed for winter and predicting a harsh one.  At the local farm stand, there’s an abundance of squashes and gourds, but little else.  The warmer, more vibrant half of the year is behind us.  And like a squirrel gathering nuts, I am hunkering down for the other half.

So go ahead and scoff at those who believe in ghosts if you want.  No doubt the prospect of an afterlife of any sort seems ludicrous to those steeped in science and accustomed to thinking rationally.  But I see ghosts in the forest all the time, and am convinced that death isn’t nearly as distant as we think it is.  This time of year, in fact, I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Oct 22 2010

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Organic World

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For a week now, the leaves have been drifting down steadily.  This season has an appropriate name: fall.  Recent rainstorms and accompanying winds have accelerated the process, putting leaves on the ground a bit faster than expected.  Not that anyone’s complaining.  The autumnal palette is moving from the trees to the forest floor, that’s all.

Actually, there is a change occurring in the leaves and it is a significant one.  First they lose their chlorophyll, then they lose their color.  And then, over time, they dry out, decay, and become part of the earth.  It is all very organic, and beautiful in ways that go beyond mere appearances.

After six hours of formatting, computer glitches and the usual Internet chicanery, I really don’t mind the damp chill that greets me at the trailhead.  Nor do the dark gray clouds intimidate.  I feel a great weight lifting from my chest as I tramp through the soggy leaves.  This is the real world, I tell myself, the one that is largely organic.  It is easy to forget that while staring at a computer screen.  All too easy.  So I walk as if every step is a prayer.  And it feels good in ways that go beyond mere feelings.

By all conventional measures, my life is a failure.  It makes no dollars and cents.  I’ve done nothing heroic, have made no great contributions to society, have created no great works of art, and haven’t done anything impressive.  I have little to show for the decades that I’ve been around.  I think, observe, and scribble down words.  That is all.  And yet somehow that strikes me as enough as I wander about the woods. In the organic world, where crows, chipmunks and all other creatures live, there is a great leveling effect.  Eventually, we all fall down and become part of the earth.  Sometimes I find that simple fact consoling.

The fallen leaves require no further explanation.  They just are.  And the great cycles of nature that they so clearly illustrate are lost only on those who never escape their abstractions.  As for the rest of us, well, we pay attention every once in a while to the earthy drama that’s constantly unfolding around us and marvel at it.

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