Sunday, September 9, 2012

Listening

I just spent roughly 5 days camping out at a lake 4,793 ft above sea level. Since I typically exist at a meager 300 ft, it was a bit of a stretch the first couple days for these asthmatic lungs. Eventually, I acclimated, as I do every year.



I'm always amazed by the rhythm of nature. Each living creature has a part to play & knows when to come on stage. In the evening, just after the sun collapsed behind the mountains, the wind would pick up & clouds of dragonfly nymphs would begin to fly in off the water. Fish seemed to sprout wings as they launched themselves into the air in hopes of nabbing a tasty treat. Large moths joined the flurry of activity & spiders began rappelling from the trees to catch whatever came their way. As the last glow of light faded, innumerable bats came out of nowhere, flitting about & dipping close to the water... One night they were so plentiful, it was harrowing to walk the few feet down to the outhouse. Once darkness had fallen, the harvestmen would come crawling like clockwork... over feet, up pant legs & onto the chess board in the glow of firelight...

In the morning, groups of loons & mergansers would begin their trips across the lake. They seemed to follow each other at a distance, zigging & zagging out from the shoreline into the center of the lake & then back again come evening. When one bird plunged into the depths, the others would follow & then bob back up, one by one. Little birds frequented the small foliage & underlying brush, joined by chipmunks, mice & other rodents. Stellar jays screamed through the trees like madmen & other larger birds stopped by to see what we had for lunch. A particular osprey favored a nearby dead tree to perch in throughout the day. It frequently made its presence known with loud, shrill chirps to its mate circling the lake. Bald eagles would compete for fish, drifting to & fro, waiting for the right moment to persuade the osprey to drop it's catch... Creepers & dippers came to visit our side of the lake as well. One morning, I spotted a dipper in the shallows (he's a small, grey bird with a strange tic-like bobbing movement)... I noted that he had an interesting song & found myself smiling as I listened & watched him bob & weave through the water. He reminded me of a vaudevillian performer, dancing & singing something akin to show toons... I half expected Uncle Remus & his friendly little bluebird to join in.

Living creatures communicated with one another, but no sound seemed wasted. Every sound was purposeful, unlike the noise we humans create in our everyday lives. As I encountered nature this week, I noticed I felt more grounded. There is a purpose, an order to existence & I began to feel as though I could find my own purpose & order therein. No human dictated to these creatures what to do & when... & yet there's a profound wisdom in the patterns they live out each day. I feel safe knowing that I'm part of these primitive cycles. Though I'm supposedly wiser than the "senseless beasts", God has given all living things a part to play & provides for their needs. They don't need money, degrees, prestige or even a command of the human language to do what they do. They simply "are" as God "is"... They communicate with a voice that translates into any culture & they are perhaps the greater teachers to those willing to listen...


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