We went exploring yesterday in neighboring Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm, and discovered an old cedar gnarled in grace at the edge of a small lake. It has the typical cedar’s look of a tree in skirts, the deer having browsed the lower vitamin C-laden branches years ago. Underneath a lush, loamy, fragrantly pungent blanket of woodsy compost harbored what I imagine is a million little insects awaking to the spring sun’s warm invitation. The whole scene was one of peace. Calm. Rightness.
An imperial tree rooted securely beside living water.
A stunning preservation of a tree so old I could not reach my arms around it (a white cedar can live to be 800 years old). Who was here in its youth? A young Anishinaabek family collecting nuts and berries, chipping Charlevoix chert for knives and spears, and drying salmon for the winter? An 1800’s logger who somehow missed this section of forest? What birds have taken refuge in its thick gown? How many fawns have bedded down with their mothers underneath its umbrella?
Any thought of the forest and its inhabitants awakens my imagination. Just today I watched a robin pair building a nest in the Frasier fir out back, using stuffed beakfuls of bluestem grass cut back in March and laid along the split rail fence for a bird salad bar. How pleasant to see the old grasses carpeting the fluff and cheep of new bird life. Still, the robins will have to be wary of the lazy cowbirds lurking nearby. We have heard and seen the trumpeting sandhill cranes flying over, gawky and loud like they’ve had too much to drink. An evening grosbeak came to the feeder two weeks ago for a two-day layover; he has an appointment further north. Then we were thrilled to see a pair of ruby crowned kinglets snipping in and out of the white pine. Now we await the hummingbirds and orioles and rose breasted grosbeaks, our very best friends of summer here at the bluff.
The other day a heavy, pregnant doe crossed my path down the lane. She wasn’t much bothered by me, so I talked with her a few minutes. I wanted to tell her to leave my red osier dogwoods alone, and she wanted to thank me for my hospitality in planting things she finds tasty.
In the end, I live in her world, not she in mine, and I must concede the right of way for browsing when there will be little ones to feed and fatten.
The squirrel and the rabbit have signed a truce under the bird feeder, where we often spill a little seed for the ground feeders. Those two, black and gray, sleek and fluffed, poke around in the sand for breakfast, sometimes surprised to come nose to nose. Yet no fight ensues. Neither chases the other away. They bow their heads and keep on feeding. Do I really own this land? I think not. It is theirs and always was. Their descendants will long outlive my own family line.
I am headed out to plant more lettuces, to transplant several balsam fir out of the little nursery where I have been babying them, and to soak my being in the sights and sounds of forest and dune. The newest catchphrase for getting out into nature is “outervention”-a sort of psycho-babble for letting God’s creation soothe your soul, and bring peace to your anxious heart. My prayer for you this spring is that you too can get outside, lose yourself in watching the birds and flowers and trees and creeks and lakes in a way that nudges you to remember, always, to praise their Maker.
Thanks for reading along! Sorry it has taken so long to write something for you!!
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2 thoughts on “Losing Yourself”
This was one of your best writings in my opinion Julie. The cedar tree and it’s eons of life is such a wonderful image. Thanks for writing this and sharing it with us.
3 fat wild rabbits visited my lawn together in Traverse City today. How did they survive the winter? I had never read The Wind in the Willows till last year, though I did go on Mr. Toad’s wild ride at Disneyland in 1957. An 8-year-old boy was in front of me returning books so I recommended it but he had no interest.