Listening

Lakeside: Photo by Noelle

Lakeside: Photo by Noelle

The bench is on the west side of the lake. The trail on this side is little more than mud in January’s warm up. The Eastern side has some stone trails that are well cleared and thus, more trafficked. I am alone, for the moment, and commit to listening and little more.

The wind rubs the winter grass stalks at my feet against each other, dry even in the mud. A warm sun would turn them green, but in these short days their rattle is little more than a reminder of summer snakes long asleep in their holes. Prairie dogs bark incessantly at me, at first. My stillness conquers. Eventually, they chatter amongst themselves no more than old women over a mahjong board. Even in the animal kingdom, neighborhoods have their gossips. The jet passes to the north heading up the spine of the Rockies. I think of travel and vacations both taken and imagined, but the real fly boys bring me back, as the geese come trumpeting off the icy lake heading for fields to dine. I marvel at the pattern. Squawking and honking begins until some unknown pitch is hit and then part of the flock suddenly rises and flies off. The length of this flock must be more than a city block. The group that rises comes from one end of the lake to the other. Some of the groups head east, while others to the south, as if they are aware where the group before them headed and know to seek pastures elsewhere.

I can hear the jogger coming for some time as her running shoes slap the surface of the mud. She is breathing hard and there is the faint tinny sound of music coming through earbuds. Another flock takes off and the wind pushes back my hood. Two women cut through the grassy hillside to beat the muddy trail and talk about teenagers with piercings. The longer I sit the more I’m aware I seem to have left the machine. The swaying cattails are riveting compared to nose rings. I wonder, briefly, where this disengagement with the fast moving world will take me, but even that thought seems more intense then this winter sun will allow. I rest back against the bench and listen.

Death and the Owl

imageFree Bing Photo

He caught me completely unaware. I have stalked this owl for more than a year. He hoots, tempting me into the wood, but is gone before I get there; hidden in summer leaves or a winter’s bark. I have waited upwards of half an hour only to realize he has flown off and I’ve been left with a crick in my neck. I was completely distracted by thoughts of death and cold. On this evening two mutually exclusive topics. I was home safe and warm in cozy flannels when I saw it begin to snow. Death whispered in my ear, rather dramatically I might add, that one day I would lie upon my death bed and think of this night. How life and nature offered me a chance at a winter’s walk in a dreamy snow and I declined for warmth and comfort. I do my best to ignore death, as she can seem a ridiculous chatterbox in my ear, but on balance, she is more friend than foe. She oft reminds me to live while time is allowed me. Thus, I found myself trading slippers for boots and wondering how death usurped my woolen blankets, when the owl took me by surprise.

He was perched on a the lowest branch of a deliciously, knobby tree. He bobbed and turned his head taking stock of me. My face was stiff and my teeth ached in this biting cold, but I could not leave him so soon. This is his domain. The night and the open field. Sometimes you have to honor the presence of a master with your time. I dreamt once of being given an owl feather. The dream has drifted off into the mist, but that feather often comes to me while meditating. It floats before my closed eyes vivid in it’s pattern. I’d fly with this fellow if it was within me, but I am wrapped as tight as a mummy. I watch as he preens his feathers oblivious to the cold.

I have never regretted anything I felt inspired to do. Magic lies on paths of inspiration and they are the only roads that death does not haunt. Now I sit relishing toasted ciabatta, slathered in peanut butter and cinnamon honey. My nose warms its way back from the icy precipice and my cat lounges across my shoulders, a living scarf. I am alone again as it would appear death has flown off with the owl. Alas, such fickle friends.

Christmas Eve

Re-posted from Enchanted Nature's Facebook page

Re-posted from Enchanted Nature’s Facebook page

Christmas Eve is upon us, laden as it so often is with darkness, mystery and old stories. The shopping is done and the fires are now lit. The last of the decorations find their way to the tree and the scent of meals half prepared for Christmas day fill the house. There is a wonderful quiet that comes on this night. Children are for once off to bed eager for the morning. Exhaustion from the preparations leaves us hole up in chairs sipping brandy or venturing out into back lanes for one last, silent walk in the winter’s air. Candles remain lit upon tables and music, rather than television fills the late hours. There is a pause on this night not felt really at any other time or evening of the year. A willingness to be quiet and allow the mystery of our spirit to take over our otherwise rational minds. We can’t explain it really. Just a feeling of something larger than ourselves, even for those who don’t celebrate the holiday. A “something” about this silence that affects most of us in a wondrous way. Leaves us with the ever so subtle feeling that maybe, just maybe, we are so much more than we think we are.

Peace, goodwill, and joy to you all. May the mystery of this night fill you with the spirit of the child you have, in fact, always been.

Prairie: Series I

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.

Story in Mud: III: Clarity

Mud: Photo by Noelle

Mud: Photo by Noelle

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.

No Mantra Required

I’ll confess to often getting bored. I suspect this is the well-spring of all my creative talent. Boredom. It is a cloying, needy friend who is satisfied by nothing. Pumpkin seeds are never salty enough. Shopping has never touched it. If the movie isn’t exciting by the fifth minute, boredom is wandering off in search of other stimuli. For someone so devoted to meditating for peace I can be, at times, a restless and demanding peace-seeker.

Photography, curiously enough, is one of a few creative processes that absolutely sates me. I can live in it for hours. Other’s work or my own, doesn’t matter. I love the way a photograph shifts my energy and refocuses me down whole new paths. Black and white in particular can be nostalgic or haunting, mystical or glaring. I am never so delighted then when I stumble upon a photograph that makes me stop my restlessness. Fleeting images inviting me inward and checking boredom at the door. In its own way it is a meditation, photography. The doing and the thinking, the looking and the tweaking. It calms my mind from wandering off in search of other pleasures. Without effort my heart slows and my breathing stills. No mantra required.