Sunday, April 24, 2011

With, not apart from

I was on a mission. There was a flower I had seen the previous evening that I had never seen before, and I wanted to get a picture of it. I grabbed my camera and my binoculars, put on my boots, and off I went to get my pictures. I walked deliberately through the field and into the woods. I had a destination in mind, but I wasn't absolutely sure where the flowers were, so I would have to pay close attention. I was very much aware of myself, of my camera, of my footsteps, of my destination. There was separation between myself and my surroundings.

Ground Ivy (or Gill-over-the-Ground) - Glechoma hederacea

I tried to walk softly and quietly, because I wanted to be able to hear the birds. They were quiet at first. I did, however, hear the creek running - a soothing sound. A sound to help me slow down. I stepped on ground ivy and a wave of minty odor wafted up to my nose. I stopped to bend down and inhale it more deeply. The evening sun was starting to fade, so I had to keep moving, but my pace lessened. Stop. Look. Listen. Smell. Keep moving, but keep noticing. Be open, aware, and receptive. I began to meld into the landscape. I was soon rewarded for my noticing. No, I hadn't found the flower I was seeking, but instead I happened upon the business of creation.

Snowberry Clearwing moths, mating - Hemaris diffinis

My first reaction was one of awe and immense gratitude. How lucky was I to come across this scene? This is, after all, not something you see every day: a pair of insects mating. I felt blessed to be able to observe them in this amazing but fragile state. Then there was the work of documenting what I saw. Thank goodness I had my camera with me! As I took photos, my brain started to process what I was seeing, wanting to put a name to it. What I thought at first to be bumble bees were, upon closer inspection, most definitely moths. But which species? With no field guide at hand, I knew I would have to research it later, so I let it go for the time being. After taking a few more photos, I gave them their privacy.

white deadnettle and purple deadnettle - Lamium album and Lamium purpureum

A quick meander away from the moths I found the flowers I was looking for: white deadnettle. It was mixed in among stands of purple deadnettle and readily stood out. Even though I was using my camera to get close to this flower, I did not especially take note of this tool in my hands. By this time, 20 or so minutes into my walk in the woods, I had become my senses. Even though I was aware that I was this person, sitting in the woods taking pictures of flowers and moths, there was also a feeling of belonging with everything around me. I felt that I was with, not apart from, the landscape that I was in. I was invited to have a seat and continue with this feeling. So I sat - I listened to the birds, watched the bumble bees and let my senses take over. I allowed myself to just be for a bit.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: we should allow ourselves to do this more often. I know I should, at least. To take time to get away from politics and money and our goods and possessions and just blend into the world around us. To be one with it. It is uplifting and refreshing. I am very fortunate to have woods and fields nearby and at my disposal whenever I feel like stepping into them. I acknowledge that not everyone has this luxury. Even if it's just a small patch of yard, a local park, a playground, a bike path, a lake - find a place that resonates with you, go there as often as you are able, and drink it in. And let it drink you in, too.

Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

After finding the white deadnettle and realizing I still had plenty of sunlight left for a leisurely return trip, I took my time the rest of the way. I stopped to cross the creek and look at the white trillium growing on the steep hillsides. I found, with effort, the Dutchman's breeches that had obviously been in peak bloom when I had seem them the day before. As dusk began settling in, the birds became more vocal, and I heard for the first time this spring a Wood Thrush singing. This beautiful song holds a very special place in my heart, and it always stops me in my tracks the first time I hear it each spring. If someone had come across me at that moment, they might not have guessed that I was listening to a bird sing. My hands were raised to my lips in a prayerful gesture, I was smiling and there were tears in my eyes. All my attention was focused on the ethereal notes of that thrush, an angelic voice to be sure. It was pure bliss.

As I emerged from the woods and onto the road, there was a spring in my step and not a cloud in my heart. I was at peace. I look forward to returning to that state again soon.


Dawn Fine said...

What a wonderful things you saw and heard! I love taking time, like you, to absorb nature..
Happy Spring to you!

Michael Bartneck said...

Amazing how you see the moths and i see one on the same day seperated by many miles! I mean you dont see those guys very often!Nice blog!

Heather said...

Dawn - See you soon at New River, where there will be plenty of nature to absorb!

Michael - How cool that we had similar moth sightings! Thanks for stopping by.

RuthieJ said...

I took a walk in the woods on Monday. I will blog about it too, but it certainly won't be as poetic as your post Heather. Thanks for sharing your thoughts -- I could imagine myself standing right there next to you!