“It is strange to be here. The Mystery never leaves you alone.” (xv)
- John O’Donohue Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom (1997)
Emerging from the deep freeze of the last week, I went out on the hoof this morning. For the first time in days not bundled up almost like Randy in “A Christmas Story” (so it seemed) I wandered down along the railroad tracks and out of town_ wending a wandering way beyond-streets to the bridge over Willow Creek (so-called by me). There I stood, in wonderment, listening to the water flowing; which was making a fair ruckus over and under ice sheets still protruding into the stream from either side.
The sound of the water rushing beneath my station on the bridge refreshed me. Bridges are always ‘places’ between other places; they are neither ‘here’ nor ‘there,’ except that you are ‘[t]here’ when you are on one. The drops of water slipping from the twigs and branches of the Aspen, Birch and Sycamore trees that are swayed over Willow Creek signaled a quiet rhythmic message to all the woods around that the Vernal ‘spirit’ was stirring and that Spring was now just over half-as-near as it was far-off at Winter’s Solstice. While there may be more deep-freezes before then, the day was prophesying that in the turning of the Wheel of the Year, Spring is on its way!
On the way to work one day, with a couple inches of new snowfall on the ground, I was struck by small patches on the sidewalks ‘cleared’ by too much salt being poured in one place. They were no more than a foot in diameter. The red brick or concrete below the snow showing though, and the snow around the edges of the cleared area seeming a little darker than the surrounding snow (probably owing to being partially thawed), reminded me of some imaginative ‘tear in space-time’ from a science fiction movie or TV show! The pieces of salt in the midst of the little cleared area made me think of stars on the ‘other side’ of the ‘tear.’ Okay, perhaps I was a little too cold to be thinking clearly (lol), yet it was a spontaneous engagement – albeit imaginative – with the Mystery of Nature. Poetic ideas mixed with observation of an objective phenomena in the external world; it was an imaginative leap that made the rest of the walk in sub-zero whether more bearable, more en-joy-able. Along the way I thought of black holes, worm holes and the chemistry of salts and their interactions with H2O.
The next day, walking to work, I crossed over the little creek that flows through town, sometimes above ground and sometimes in culverts underground. Where I was crossing it, the creek disappears underground for about three blocks. Looking up the creek, to the north of the sidewalk, I was suddenly struck by the visage of an almost ice-covered rush of water. I could hear the water flowing down the stream, even through my ear-muffs, and the fact that about the middle third of the stream was not covered over by the ice, and that the ice was translucent near the edges of the water’s flow, made the scene picturesque! It seemed almost illuminated! I regretted not having my little pocket camera with me, and though urged onward toward my place of work by the sub-zero temperatures, I stayed for a few seconds, absorbing the scene! I was impressed with the imaged scene of the ice-edged creek and by the sound of the water resonant in my ears the rest of the way to work. I was en-joy-ed by it. It was a moment of engagement with the Mystery of Nature!
The next night, as I was walking home just after sunset, I was allured in to that Mystery again by the striking reds, oranges and violets be-streaking the western sky! I had to stop at the railroad track and lift my hood, to take in the horizon, from just east of South around to near North, captivated by the rich and iridescent colors of the sunset! Wandering on home, trying to keep my footing on the ice-covered sidewalks while glimpsing up – whenever I safely could – at the changing colours of the sky, I went along hoping to still be able to en-joy the sunset while shoveling walks before supper! I was fortunate, as by the time I was clearing light, silky snow, the reds and oranges had shifted towards the violet end of the spectrum. I was then startled to see the snow on lawns on down the street radiantly reflecting light from the blue part of the spectrum. Blue snow; purple horizon. The colors were exuberant, and they lit me up in soul-joy! It was a moment of engagement with the Mystery of Nature.
This morning, standing at the bridge over ‘Willow Creek’ (my imaginative name for that same creek, back in town, in which I’d seen the “ice and water” scene three days before), I felt that sudden sensation of connection-with-Nature, and knew its value. Not just its practical or economic value; though those are important, responsibly understood and handled—but its value for our very soul-life; that which keeps us from merely surviving—that which raises us up to being able to become the kind of beings that we are; human beings. We are animals; but we have a particular ‘way’ of being-in-the-world; always becoming. For we are a part of Nature; Nature is our home—and there is no other home in the cosmos that we have yet found to which we might go.
I stood for a long while – grateful for the fact of the temperature having risen to just above freezing – listening to the water of Willow Creek flowing below me; below the bridge—and thinking about the sciences and how they interface with the imaginative mind & heart. There are so many ways to express our connection to Nature; our being part of it and living in it, even if we too often experience ourselves cut off from it in constructed domestic and social environments—however valuable they may be. Yet Nature presences, even on city streets and in our homes; even on sub-zero days when we have to be out-and-about for whatever purpose.
The point of being here, for me; in the world and of the Earth—is to live life, and not merely survive. Our being a manifestation of Nature is the ur-taproot of our life-as-lived; even if we are not conscious of it on a day-to-day, much less a moment-by-moment, basis, as were, perhaps, our ancestors, long ago. We are Nature, having become conscious of itself; and reconnecting with that fact that can ground, re-energize and transform us—lifting us above the daily rounds of work and play and the trials that oft beset us. It can bring us peace and it can help put our lives in perspective. Training ourselves to pay attention to Nature even – and perhaps especially – in the midst of daily living and all that we have to do to stay in-the-flow and now sink, provides a bridge – over our very own creek – whereupon we can, if only for a moment, plumb the depths and experience something of the alluring presence of Nature.
While its then ‘back to what needs done,’ there is refreshment in paying attention to Nature all around us when and where we can and, I think, this lightens the burden of living. To experience ourselves part of something so vast and awe-inspiring as the Earth and Cosmos beyond it helps define us as the beings we are. This is what I have brought back from winter wandering today. It was an engagement with the Mystery of Nature!
|A View from the Bridge over Willow Creek (2011)|