Thursday, August 2, 2012
Turtles on the Lake in the Morning
This familiar path, down the hill a little ways from our home, smells of coast live oak leaves, dust, bay laurel, that spice almost like cinnamon in the dry mild air. I am always amazed how quickly the mind quiets once I'm off the paved road where cars pass and houses line the way.
A thistle-head, going to seed. Still some strands of purple flower hanging on, silken and shining. The goldfinches wait to build their nests until the thistles look like this, so they can use all that down for bedding. Wise creatures.
It was still early enough that human shoes hadn't yet covered up the deer prints from the night. Like two hearts, pressed into the dust, quite small. At dawn, perhaps, a young doe made her way slowly up this same path, foraging calmly. I like to put my fingers in the tracks, imagine the creature they belong to, say hello. When you look hard and long at the shapes made by human shoes, they start to look like strange arcane patterns, carved like spells into the dirt, not anything so mundane as the soles of sneakers.
Down below the oak and bay laurel forest, the thickets begin. The hedgerows, though these were never planted by humans. A path was just carved right through the brambles and vines. Currants, blackberries, thimbleberries, elderberries. To the right, the willow bushes begin, a great labyrinth of warrens and tangles, home to great numbers of woodrats, gray foxes, badgers, weasels, brush rabbits and no doubt a bobcat or two, not to mention songbirds. I am enchanted by it, by the mystery of all the tunnels and passageways.
Who lives in there? Many, many beings, some of them watching me at this moment no doubt.
I passed an old antler rub from last autumn or before. Stags seem to enjoy rubbing their antlers on willow in particular during the rut. Maybe it has antiseptic or soothing properties when absorbed through antler-velvet!
Two turtles sat quietly in the sun on Jewel Lake. The ripples on the surface reflected against the alder leaves and branches. They seemed to be pulsing, like you could see the tree-blood moving through.
So many tunnels and caverns and dens. I love the feeling of walking upon the narrow ribbon of the path that cuts between, knowing that all around me a wild maze of homes tangles and shivers with small particular lives.
Like this fellow, who left wet footprints all along a small wooden walkway by the stream. A striped skunk I think, emerging from the willows after having a drink.
It is good for the mind and for the soul, to leave the human-full streets a while, in the morning, before your thoughts have taken over, and remember all the other lives that happen around you every day— skunk, spotted towhee, doe, big old oak.