Flowers don’t cry. One of the true and unromantic wonders of nature is that plants aren’t going around wearing emotions all over the place. When Faith, the Aussie pumpkin, was compelled to surrender to a killing frost, she did it with no fanfare. This is not to say the resultant limp leaves and black, lifeless stems weren’t sad to me. They were. I’d hoped for a late fall and the chance for at least one of Faith’s fruits to mature, but what Faith did accomplish I have here on my table.
Many people find nature “relaxing.” I think (for me anyway) it’s movement in nature that’s relaxing. I don’t think nature is doing its thing thinking, “I’m so beautiful! I will inspire everyone!” It’s just part of human nature to seek respite from the human grind, human nature to experience inspiration. Nature itself is constant struggle. There is a LOT of drama out there.
This time last year I was crossing the golf course and happened on the remains of a red tail hawk. I could read the story just from the strewn feathers. Fox. The moment of their intersection would have been pretty dramatic, and maybe the hawk had screeched. At that moment, he was after food, maybe digging worms out of the ground, maybe a mouse or bunny was scurrying along the grass, and the hawk dived just as the fox was preparing to spring.
As it happens, I later met a guy who was there to see it. I’d read the story right.
One of the great things of hiking in the morning on dusty trails or on snowy days is the stories written on the ground. It’s a constant reminder that things out there are not all sweetness and light. It’s truly kill or be killed, and yet, for us humans — and maybe other creatures — there is the quality of wonderment, like last December when I realized my walks were shadowed by a small herd of mule deer. Over the next few days, I saw that they were curious about me. The watcher was being watched. I wondered what questions were going through their minds.
I thought they were thinking, “Friend or foe?” There came a day when one of the does came within 20 yards of me and continued approaching. I held Bear and said to the doe, “I’m not your friend. I’m really not your friend. Go back.” As if she understood me (though I think it was just my voice that did it), she turned and went back to the herd. The truth is I WAS her friend. I loved this little herd of deer very much (I confess I told them, too, both with my voice and in sign) and went out to see them every day. Even Bear had learned to sit quietly when the deer were in sight.
Similar moments have happened between me and other wild animals. Curiosity seems to be a trait of sentient beings everywhere. Foxes, coyotes, hawks, and certainly ravens have all wanted to know what was going on with me and my dogs.
I haven’t been out there in nearly a month since I sprained my foot — a mid-foot sprain, nasty. Things were moving in the right direction until I reinjured my foot somehow in the night, so I’m in pain again. Sprains take a long time to heal and they are easily re-injured. I know that. A mid foot sprain is very vulnerable and maybe I was stupid not to get the big boot and all that. I don’t know. But it’s my right foot, and I need to be able to drive. Maybe my values are backward. Maybe I should have cancelled my life and done that. It’s nature, after all, my body is nature as much as is a tree or an Aussie pumpkin, a vulnerable red tail, or a curious doe. I don’t know about the existence of “will” in non-human beings, but I know mine is formidable and not always my best friend. It’s been three weeks since I last re-injured it. I suppose I have now to start all over again with the recovery and rehab. Well, with no events planned after this weekend, maybe it won’t be so difficult.