Jan 20, 2018

The Silkiest Black

It's a gray day at Fitton Green. The gravel roads on the way up were slippery as if covered in ice. I regret not grabbing my raincoat as I left the house, it was sunny then.

I walk down the trail listening to a man teach children how to hike. It had never occurred to me that one needed to learn to hike. “Always carry a map and pay attention to where you are going, if you talk too much you can lose track of where you are.” This strikes me as profound, possibly even the essence of how to get along as a human.

The hills are foggy, clouds moving across the ground in discreet formations. I pick a spot to draw by some rocks, grateful there doesn't appear to be any poison oak. I wrap a blanket around my legs and make three small sketches of a group of trees. I play with value and line in my studies, that's all I’ve got today. I am cold and the uphill trail calls to me as a source of warmth.

I pack up my things and walk up the hill to watch the fog. I am focused today after a long spell being distracted with a new love interest, sitting in my studio, drawing a few sketches, getting lost in fantasy, realizing I want to be drawing. What can I do but yield and watch so I may come to understand the mechanics of this hopeful vigil.

These urges are born from the deepest places in our bodies, the emptiest places in our hearts. Anyone who tells you you should learn to be happy alone instead of pining for love is talking too much. This repugnance society has toward romantic longings, does it inspire anyone to transcend their need for love? Or does it dress us in a sort of dunce cap, no longer paying attention to the tender desires that lead to the kind of people we can share love with?

For now, I am enjoying this quiet mood, taking in the shapes of the branches, the mossy clumps, the ocher meadows, clouds obscuring the steep hills in varying grays that lift and slide away. It brings a sense of majesty, as if I am nowhere near civilization.

Something white and brilliant catches my eye moving on the hillside. It is tipped dramatically in the silkiest black. It is the wing of a Northern Harrier. I watch mesmerized as it flies back and forth over the hillside low to the ground, his pale belly stark even in the subtle colors of fog. His wings so long he moves at the farthest edge of grace, making his own wave-like rhythm. A cloud blows in veiling his flight as he drifts to the far edge and disappears behind the pines.

Once, I sat on the bench at Jackson-Frazier wetlands tearing myself up over whether or not to leave my boyfriend of the time, while watching a couple Harriers playing in the wind over the meadow. One glided low over me and I wanted to believe this was a message, that the friendliness of the universe had synced my schedule with the Harrier so I might be moved by his grace to have faith in my relationship. The Harriers became my personal emblem of romantic love until I learned the males will mate with as many as five females at once which, at its essence, was the reason I was considering a break-up.

I decided Harriers would make a better emblem of wildness and peace for the soft way they fly over the wetland meadows and through the forests under the canopy. The boyfriend I left when I got so cold I longed to walk uphill.

This pining for a new man, I cherish as evidence I narrowly escaped the pressure to stay on the wrong trail just to avoid wearing the dunce cap. I will watch these new dreams build and crash, and every time I slip back into my own skin I will be ready to pick up my pack and hike quietly through the fog with sketches to make, a map in hand for the life I want to live.

Jan 13, 2018

One Tiny Thing

Saturday morning I woke up to fog and made pancakes while sending my new love interest an unintentionally mixed message over e-mail. I ate the pancakes, considered whether this could be fixed with another message or only made worse. I sided with worse then lay on the couch for a moment of just being cozy which turned into a long moment of imagining what it might be like with him there.

I put on warm clothes and hopped on my bike for Bald Hill. There was nothing left of the fog but what harm was there in enjoying the January sun even if alarmingly unseasonable? Along the bike path a Red Tail swooped off a power line into the grass, a Downy Woodpecker hopped around the backside of a tree by the trail.

As I parked my bike three Ravens soared in an arc over the oaks and disappeared into the woods scolding each other.

The mud was thick on the side trail. The sparrows and Towhees, surprised by steps, darted from each side of the trail into the brush. Suddenly I remembered a dream with Varied Thrushes. He and I lay together, as if it was settled, and I heard their haunting calls all around us as the room shrank, just enough for two bodies and the rest was wilderness.

I wanted my hike to be an epic adventure but it was hard to be present, planning the escape from office work, wishing I could share the walk with him: the sunlight, the temperature of my hands. Occasionally I remembered to admire the undulating trunks of the oaks shimmering in their green moss, steam rising off their limbs into the sun. I heard the sound of the rocks under my feet and enjoyed the feeling of finally being in my element and resting there.

The ordinariness made me miss the poignancy of hermit life. My desire for intimacy projected so deeply into everything that everything was silver and vying for my love, each molecule, each thicket of wood and green leaf entwined in my strange union. It gave me so much more to write about besides:

Three ravens arc over the oaks. 
The moss steams under the sun. 
My boots beat on the rocks 
while I think of someone who isn't here. 

I can't go back. It is so nice to have friends, to feel my unwavering worth, to have moments considering a real person who may actually lay on my couch someday.

But this place l became so intimate with—where creativity and love of nature become a road into the soul, where psychology is a mystical branch of Science, where spirituality is a personal act no one needs to see but ourselves—it is so compelling. How does one write about it without a grand suffering holding it together? What is the name for this place? Is it so simply just the human heart perched in the mossy woods of the soul like a still crow that it alludes the intellect who searches for an easily googled term to wedge in a 30 second elevator speech?

I stop and draw a tree. It is not any great study, I’m hungry, the high sun has washed out all subtlety, and my attention span has left with the sparrows. Sometimes it's enough to do one tiny thing.

Back on the bike path the horses linger along the fence line wearing blankets that make them look like monks. A harrier flies over and lands in the middle of the field where there may have been a mouse.