Rabbits, field mice and voles scurry in the brush. If I sit long enough the prairie dogs quit their yelping and the rabbits return to nibbling on winter grass. The crows come and go. They walk amongst the scrub and short cacti with a strut fit for a banker. They seem fat this year, as do the prairie dogs. All that summer rain has left them all fat on seed and grass. They do not rejoice in their bounty anymore than they complained in the drought. They make good what is given them and leave it at that. My lesson for today. Make good on what is given me and today it is an open field, a decent winter sun and fat rabbits.
It is not a loss of passion toward the end. At this level, you appreciate the subtlest gifts of time together. You need do little more than sit in silence enjoying the geese and you are made a bit more whole.
I came to Colorado for the Rockies rising powerfully off the prairie and capped in white much of the year. I love to hike as well as sit listening to wildlife moving amongst the trees or along cliff ledges. Thus, I often hike alone. Curiously, though, as the years have passed it’s the prairie that draws me most. I love the openness and the huge skies. Rolling vistas, beautiful grasses and skeletal tumble weeds. I can meditate for sometime on the waves of tall grasses moving as a great ocean to prairie winds. Driving along an interstate or passing a field you know well on your way to work can leave you thinking its all the same. Nothing new there. You have to spend time in fields and prairie land to discover their subtler beauty. Mountains are easy. They’re grand and spectacular in their sweeping majesty. They are beauty without effort and I’ve discovered, as a result, there’s no effort from me in that. No growth. No push in my vision to see more. The prairie pushes my understanding of what beauty is. It asks me to work for it. It demands I look more closely.
I touch the surface with my fingers. I find it’s kind of an artist’s Braille. There’s something about the craggy mess, especially when there is moist gooey mud underneath that captivates me. Sometimes I wonder if what I’m really looking for is a picture of Elvis or Jesus to appear. “Look… Don’t you see? Right there next to the half squashed dragonfly and below the willow stick. If you turn your head slightly to the side you’ll see President Putin’s face.”
I don’t know what I’m after honestly. A great masterpiece in earth and water. In my smartphone apps you can clarify a picture, which is to say you can pull forth all of the color and light available in an image with much higher clarity. It doesn’t add what isn’t there or detract, it just shows you the mass of what is available. I’ve had photos of pink and purple mud, blue green and so forth. The camera pulls up the conglomerate of minerals and rock debris in the mud. Sometimes it has algae mixed in or red stone sediment and voila! we have something completely new.
Clarity in all things is like this. The clearer I see myself, circumstances, other people and events, the more I perceive the depth of light and color in each. I see who I am, really, in the presence of all of these other things. I understand the mineral make up of my mud. A great masterpiece in earth and water.
We think splitting an atom is the most powerful thing we humans can figure out or do. I’d argue breaking a habit is. Without focus and discipline changing habitual patterns isn’t just difficult it’s nearly impossible, because the very nature of a habit is you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. This is great for driving to work in the morning, but if you have a habit of eating too much or never giving yourself nice things, it’s a problem not a help. Of interest, however, is inside our well-worn habits is the power of celestial black holes. When we break out of them it’s a bit like releasing the energy of a quasar. This, of late, has become my focus. I’ve challenged myself to break a few of my own.
Tonight I went for winter’s walk. I often step out onto the deck and think I should walk the neighborhood before bed. The air is crisp and clean and it always feels like there’s magic in all that darkness. Invariably though, I talk myself out of it with such pressing matters as there’s lunch to pack for the next day. I’m in cozy socks. It’s late and I have to be up early. I decided tonight I would make a different choice. On death beds all over the world are millions of people lamenting the night walks they never took and the sunsets they forgot to appreciate. That shall not be me, I decided. I left on my cozy socks and slipped on my sneakers.
The air was, as I expected, crisp and almost electric. Christmas lights dot almost every house and as I walked along the lake the colored lights lit the water. I heard the geese commenting on my passing, more than I could actually see them. At this hour, there is so much quiet that the subtlest rustle of leaves could be heard. I held my keys, as even their jingle in my pocket seemed a marching band. What I think may have been an owl flew over my head as I stood on the bridge that crossed the creek. The coyotes in the field beyond the houses announced the start of their night hunt and I listened to them yelp for several minutes before moving down the path into the wood.
To experience the night, it’s movement and its odd manner of light; stars, a crescent moon, street light reflections, is to awaken something truly mystical in your soul. I am certain it was this mystery that so often whispered to me as I stood on the deck. A mystery in me I can only feel when I walk in darkness and allow the sounds of the night to move around me. There’s power in allowing yourself to be partially blind. To accept the way isn’t all that clear past the next few steps. That you can be happy in all the black uncertainty. It’s curious that when we meditate it can feel hard to silence oneself, yet take a walk along a deserted lane at night and it is as if your skull has become the most beautiful chapel, your thoughts saffron wrapped monks bowing to the moon.
Little lights dot the slopes in the crevasses of rocky crags and the meetings of hillsides. I see them winking on the edges of prairie grasses or from a thin strip of spring ice. So small a thing yet it holds me fast on the trail. I will change positions, lie in mud, and contort myself ridiculously to capture even a wisp of it. Mindfulness at its best. Who doesn’t love a sweeping landscape and my camera is full of those, too, but the little lights demand my full attention. They don’t come obviously or easily. Flickers on baby’s breath and shafts seeming to eminate outward from an inner source I can’t see. Prairie land in particular is full of such light. In all that rolling sameness are small plants acting as beggars to a regal sun.
It came horizontal to the ground, bending the trees back and delaying the train. As we disembarked it greeted us pouring beneath the roofs. Bouncing off the train and hitting its brethren falling down from above, a most curious silver veil was created between the train and the platform. I wasn’t ready to leave, yet like all journeys, mine had come to an end in Chicago. As I strolled in the bustle of other passengers, dragging my own gear, I pondered the auspicious nature of beginning my next journey stepping through a veil of silver light.