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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


fire pink

Some of the beauties we see on the banks of old roads along the edge of woods. They transplant easily and they're hardy. I've used the sides of roads that are doomed in near future to get some of these fire pinks and some ferns over the years. I don't take many and leave no traces of digging. Thinning them slightly in one place where they're doomed and putting them in another where they'll be safe seems to me a fair balance that at least keeps them going for awhile.

It makes me laugh inside that having an aesthetic appreciation for what we call the natural world, the world outside control by the human mind called the wild, is politically radical. I wonder what John Burroughs would have thought of that. He was a nature lover and he was a radical in his time. He may have been even more radical a century ago when the Robber Barons were conservative. One of the great ironies of history that happens over and over, the Reagan Revolution created more liberals than there'd ever thought of being before.

What does a fern have to do with politics? Even a mountain trout has nothing to do with politics. The times I have sat on a rock in the stream long enough for the trout to come out and swim around, they have given me beautiful shows of swimming. It takes at least an hour for them to come back out after the giant walks by. I always had fish of some sort in childhood, mostly goldfish, and then an aquarium. I could watch the fish swim for hours at a time, mind at rest. Watching trout swim for a couple of hours was one of the great moments of my life.

There's not much political about appreciation of seeing a bobcat jump across the road in front of the truck and disappear into the woods the moment he entered the trees. Every one I've seen has disappeared like a ghost. I always stop to look and search just to see if I might be able to see something. Nothing. Like the little spirit cat I used to see in the house. I'd see it and it would disappear.

A memory surfaced of the time in dense fog, driving moderately, a buck with a big rack jumped across the hood of my truck. It seemed like the size of a horse. That was one of the many unforgettable moments with nature I've been graced by. In the same place where the deer jumped the hood, I was driving in no hurry and saw in the corner of my left eye a dog I knew named Morgan, a black dog with a lot of hair, that ran "coon-footed," heel first. The way the front legs were going was the same way Morgan looked when she ran. I turned my head for a better visual and it was a young black bear loping along the same speed I was driving.

Many times I've seen a hawk fly just in front of my hood for quite a ways, wings up and down make the body sway up and down. From behind like that and so close I can see the living being moving those arms loaded with feathers up and down with perfect understanding of flight, the tail working to right or left. I've seen crows fly in front of my truck for a good ways. Those are the moments I feel truly blessed. I feel like the mountain is showing me its grace.

There was the time I was standing on a rock in the stream and heard the yip-yip-yip of the pileated woodpecker. I looked in the direction I heard the voice and saw one flying through the trees straight toward me, swaying back and forth in flight between the trees. It flew about three feet over my head yip-yipping as it went by. I heard another and saw a second one following, yip-yip-yip, and it too flew about three feet above my head. I think I said, Thank You, out loud. There was the time a crow flew only a foot or so above my head and I heard its wings. It brought to mind the song Come Angel Band, "I hear the sound of wings."

I can't call any of these moments "signs," because I don't believe they are what we call signs. I have come to take them as a momentary blessing. A blessing such that I know I would never have an opportunity to receive if my mind were outside the present moment. There is a lot of freedom in living poor. Don't need so much income to live on, so don't have to work so hard. Have a little time to enjoy surprise moments that are mine only, gifts from a place I don't understand that I call the spirit of the mountain.

I may be all wet, but when something like that happens I honestly do feel like it is my mountain speaking to me with a surprise gift I'll never forget.
How radical is that?


  1. Thank you so much for allowing me to visit the mountains that I also love without leaving my office. One day I hope to carry on your tradition of "living poorly" full-tim in the mountains of Alleghany County. Hope Jr. gets to come home soon.

  2. Thanks MD.
    Found your Bear Bottom.
    Will be interested to see where you go with it.
    Not that I have expectations.
    I don't do expectation.
    I'll let you be as you are and appreciate that.