As I write this I’m preparing to host a day of meditation for a dozen people at our cabin in the mountains. Unless it rains, some of that time will be spent outdoors. At an altitude of about 3,300 feet, we’re situated in an enchanted womb of a valley encircled by densely wooded mountains, most of which are named after animals or natural formations resembling familiar shapes. What will we see or hear as we meditate near the house, in the woods along the trail, or in the nearby national forest? What will we learn from our mother and the mother of all life? How will she inspire and change us?
Our cabin is visited daily by several varieties of birds, including kingfishers, red tail hawks, hummingbirds and crows — or perhaps they’re ravens; I’m not sure how to tell the difference — squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and rabbits. Occasionally we see wild hogs, hedgehogs, turkeys, a great blue heron, deer, or black bear. Last week a glittering large — at least five feet long — black snake glided up the front porch steps, then, possibly deterred by the horrified energy emanating from a few frozen humans, veered off to the left and slithered down into the thick groundcover.
The pond has trout, and, apparently, a large turtle who sends intermittent pillars of bubbles to the surface. Water skaters, dragonflies and other insects flit and flirt near the surface. Last night we saw fireflies. During the day we are serenaded by birds, bullfrogs and cicadas; at night by crickets and tree frogs. We awaken and are lulled to sleep by the music of cool, rushing, boulder-skirting, rock-splashing water.
It’s impossible to take a walk without finding something that fascinates. Dead branches dotted with mounds of pale green ruffled lichen or shallow-bowled orange fungus beg to be picked up. Hornets vacate papier mache’ nests the size of cantaloupes. Discarded feathers, some alarmingly big, elicit excited cries of, “Oh, look what I found!” Cicadas, butterflies and moths abandon their husks on tree trunks, fence posts and porch railings. Daddy longlegs stalk the deck and scale the rocking chairs. Spider Woman awaits her lunch in shimmering webs beneath the eaves. We’re convinced there are fairies at the bottom of our garden.
When our grandchildren were here we talked about the perils of mushrooms, poison ivy, chiggers, wooly adelgid (a furry white parasite that’s killing our hemlocks), honey bees, yellow flies and stinging nettles. We identified the fern which emits a spicy-sweet earthen aroma we associate with this place. We picked and ate raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. We discussed when to leave a bird’s nest where it is and when it’s okay to add it to our nature tray. They waded in the icy cold creek, slipped on mossy boulders, captured tadpoles and crayfish. They left some of their treasures — shiny sheets of mica, sparkly rocks, buckeyes or feathers — in a tree hollow used by fairies as a post office. By the end of their visit the fairies discovered these gifts and left treasures in return.
It is impossible not to be awed, enchanted and enlightened by Mother Nature’s magic, yet how often we forget to notice the miracles she leaves for us just outside our doors. Lauren Hutton has said, “Anything, everything can be learned if you can just get yourself in a little patch of real ground, real nature, real woods, real anything … and just sit still and watch.”
We’ll open our inner doors to real things tomorrow. What will we learn about our own natures from meditating on Mother Nature? What have you learned?
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave