Tuesday, December 10, 2013
(Continued from page 1)
But the dog's nosing around in the yard had slowed me down just a bit, and that had stopped me for a nano-second on the back porch, where a lawn-in-name-only gives way to the complex, intricate other world of the wild Maine forest.
It is a narrow swath -- an edge in which I could linger all day long. Over years of happy, accidental encounters with natural phenomena, I have learned that a lot of life enacts itself in the margins.
My next-door neighbors share the same woodland edge -- only farther in -- and as a result they ended up fostering a baby porcupine that was discovered in this tumbledown landscape. It had been orphaned this summer when its mother was struck down in the road by a car. The whole tale eventually involved several players and an ongoing drama, with the ministrations of a licensed animal rehabilitator and two tries at returning the porcupine to the wild.
The first attempt failed; the baby returned to the yard, imprinted by the humans who'd helped it. The second was a longer trip, deeper into the woods, and the porcupine has not been seen since.
But these are the kinds of intimacies that nature unveils in the landscape every day; we just don't always have the chance to watch the narratives unfold from beginning to end. Which is why the mere sight of two harmless arachnids, evident for perhaps five minutes, impressed itself on me so clearly and in what has turned out to be a lasting, memorable way.
I spend a lot of time listening to conversations that are not human, chatter that involves no words that I could translate into a given tongue, or that issues forth from incarnations in the physical world that we do not think of as alive (rocks and beaches, for example) or sentient (like trees). Every small pulse of life, however, is a conversation, if you can interrupt your own noise and attune yourself to the mood of the non-human realm all around. This is why we flee to the wilderness, even if the wilds are a thicket 50 feet away, a backyard apiary or the dark corners under the back steps where crickets and sowbugs congregate.
It is disarming how much there is to be learned in one square yard of earth, let alone an ecosystem or continent, ocean or planet. A microcosm is a paradise, too, though you might not be allowed to stay. Every corner reflects the multiplicity and marvel of some creation.
Take a look. You could travel everywhere though you hardly move from the doorstep. Close examination and focus, attention and appreciation, bring the universe near.
One step outward, beyond your ordinary concerns and duties, could transport you to distant horizons and deliver the world.
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