01 June 2015

Mindfulness is a booger some days

    I stand at our bathroom stool, getting ready to take a piss. Sunbeams filter through the woodland canopy. They light up the greenery behind the vintage wire fence north of the house. Two white butterflies dance amongst the green and gold, then flutter into the verdant depths. All I need to know about the world is right here, right under my nose.

    And what does that mean?

    It’s one of those sudden insights best accepted at face value, not poked and prodded too much. In this world a glimmer of truth is a delicate creature, not a pickled frog to be dissected in ninth grade biology class.

    Yet I start picking at this vision as if it’s a booger I can’t quite let alone. Perhaps I’ll always be a callow freshman in the school of life, hopeless when it comes to understanding the deeper mysteries of being.

    Those are cabbage butterflies, I remind myself, bad news for our six spindly cabbage plants. And those green bushes they used as a dance floor, that’s an invasive species we’re to eradicate from our property. So said the district forester who was here yesterday to measure the health of our 15-acre woods. And the white ash trees out this back window? He pronounced their death sentence, also. They’ll soon fall prey to an pestilential insect invasion, now about three miles from our house. We’re to girdle the trees—kill them now, before the emerald ash borer does—and harvest the wood. 

    The sun shines bright overhead even as distant thunder growls like my grandfather used to. Nothing is what it appears. I’m taking a piss in thinking I know anything.

    Still, I keep trying to learn. I’m on my way out to the chicken coop when I stop by the far gate. Ahead of me, an ash tree wraps a large rust-orange metal drum in leafy embrace. The limbs have grown around the old gas tank. It gets more support from the tree nowadays than from its original metal legs, one of which has rusted away at the ankle. A knee-high log stands on end near the base of the tree. A red-bellied woodpecker perches on it. This is the chopping block on which I have executed many a rooster using a sharpened axe. The bird drives his strong sharp beak into the wood, seeking life where others have met their death. His skull and the membrane around his brain are thickened to cushion the shock of ramming his bill into hard wood. When he locates a beetle or ant he shoots out a sticky barbed tongue, impales the insect, then devours it. How might I might follow your example, ingenious and wise one, you who find life in a place of death, who uses your thick skull to nourish yourself.

    As if to belie my assessment of him, the woodpecker hops onto the metal leg of the gas drum. He hammers at rusty iron. Foolish fellow, there are no bugs inside that metal tank.

    Or maybe not so foolish. My bird book informs me woodpeckers drum on trees, poles, even telephone transformers, as a mating call and to warn away other red-bellies from the area. This one was playing love songs on a kettledrum. Quite the way to make a statement, and one other than what I was trying to read into the encounter.

    Not a bad lot in life, to keep my eyes and ears open, try to read the signs, listen to the voice of the world, laugh at my misinterpretations, lose myself in wonder and joy.

    En route to the coop this week I stop short when find a spotted fawn blinking big brown eyes at me. I hold my breath. Ever the world shows it soft self again and again, even to cabbage heads.

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