It reveals something to me about loss, but I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to go into the woods season after season and see the same animals there every time and know exactly where to find them.
It’s the way we know how the lofty brown squirrel chewing on pinecones will jump to the same tree when we get there. It watches and chatters over us as it leaps from branch to branch. It drops a freshly gnawed pinecone near us. What does it mean to live here season after season?
We know the two chipmunks bounding over a felled tree are always there. What do they do in the hollow places of trees, peeking out from the eyes of its decomposed trunk? What is it like to know such places? What is it like to lose a place once it decomposes?
We pause to think about the bear in the area. How far does it travel from its den in search of food? How does a bear build a den, anyway? We can travel farther into the woods and think about the rocks and the earth and the shadows and the light that might be a right fit. Where would we build a den if we were a bear?
The woodpeckers that hack the pine with their beaks, they’re still there, drilling a few more holes. Holes are a part of their homes. Holes are part of our homes, too, but it’s usually holes in our hearts from loss. Do the woodpeckers and any other birds go back to check on those holes later to see if anything has fallen into them and collected in the pine sap?
We know the valley with the stream and the mossy rocks are always where we can find the butterflies dancing through the summer. We can always dance with them. We can dance after we stop to cry at the beauty. How is it that what is changing and transforming in front of us so subtly can be felt so deeply and wonderfully? What does it mean to fly?
We’re a part of the changing of the seasons. We can see how the woods change, the animals change, how we feel ourselves change through the seasons by the way we relate to ourselves in the woods. We find it beautiful, mesmerizing. We’re eager to see the change, to feel change inside like the chipmunk in the hollowed log, moving along with life. We identify in the woods: The beauty in nature is the beauty in you.
This year we made a new friend. A curious chipmunk we had never seen before popped up on the rocks on top of the mountain and said hello. I giggled. I dropped a raw pumpkin seed. It ducked away. And then we chilled.
The yellow and orange leaves always fall on the mountain but never in the same way. We tell our friends in the woods to have a wonderful winter and we’ll see you next year. What beauty and surprises might transform this place next—and us—in the coming season?