It is my intention to bring you more stories of my interactions with nature. This is one of those, of a very strange day a couple of days ago.
I pulled a shirt from the closet – black, with an embroidered owl – and set it out with my clothes for the day. When I returned after my shower, the only shirt there was a different one – grey and covered in tiny skulls. Freaking out a bit, but deciding to go with it, I put it on. Then I got ready, put my dog in the car, and went off for our hike at the McLane Creek Nature Trail.
This was a trail I had not been to yet, chosen because the guidebooks said it was a good place to see Salmon. I felt torn about going; knowing it would be beautiful, but also that the land was state owned and was active timber country, and that it was likely there would not be many salmon in the waters, and so that sense of loss would permeate my hike.
I had just crossed the threshold from parking lot to trail when I began to hear sweet, soulful notes through the forest. It took me only a moment to make sense of the sound: someone was playing a wooden flute on the other side of the lake.
I chose my path around the loop trail – left, this time – and the undergrowth and small deciduous trees of recently timbered forest slowly shifted into decaying stumps larger than I could stretch my arms around and towering Red Cedar, deep and rich in color with roots like thick stilts rising from the nurse stumps.
The sun was just barely piercing the cloud cover and the tree canopy as I came to a fork in the trail: one way continuing on the loop, another leading out to a deck overlooking the creek that bordered the other side. A perfect triangle, and in the center of it a grove of Red cedar in the richest red, other trees as skeletons covered in bright green moss and soft grey lichen.
Just then, as I walked slowly into the grove, still listening to the flute, captivated by beauty but also something more, the sun illuminated this burnt piece of Red Cedar. As it did, mist began to rise from it’s surface like smoke. It seemed to sway in the air before slowly drifting away. I looked up and all around me as the sun began to bathe this shadowy grove in light and it seemed as if every growing thing began to stretch and then smokey mist began to rise all around me.
It felt like a miracle, like divine play all around me. I sat for a time in meditation doing japa, and then went to the creek. Indeed, I could hear only a couple of salmon, slapping in the only section deep enough in the creek; the rest of it exposed gravel bed.
I continued on my hike, marveling at the trees and fungi and the life and death all around me. Eventually I came across the person playing the flute, an elderly man sitting along the beaver pond; at this point he had been playing for well more than an hour. I thanked him for the sweet notes through the forest. And then I thanked the forest, too.