A Great Emptiness

The oaks seem extra lumpy after the rain, their mossy coats catching the cloud light and shimmering green-gold. I climb the ridge stopping here and there to look at the scenery. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for months. Now that I’m finally here I’m so engrossed in mentally rearranging my priorities I’m barely noticing the surrounds.

I’ve been replacing my quest for spiritual truth with the thing I love most—communing with nature. Perhaps today would be a good time to reckon with the fact that not every walk in the woods is going to be a deep experience. That it’s OK to sometimes be distracted while the shadows crisscross the pale bark of the pines and black-tailed deer slip up the slope carrying the silver light back to the top of the ridge on their shiny coats.

To miss the acorn woodpeckers chasing a flicker from the dead oak, full of acorn-size holes that keeps their stash. Or the Bewick’s Wren who lands in a bush off the trail and buzzes. To not notice that two Spotted Towhees scattered from the same place on the trail on my way out and back.

Eventually there will be the moment when I come to—when the sun breaks slowly through the gray and the forest light turns nostalgic and orange, gleaming crimson off the carpet of purple and brown leaves.

I sit on a log to watch and consider what it even means to commune with nature. Empty and wound-tight, I wonder, what do I offer in return?

On the way back three wild turkeys plod down hill through the ferns and sticks, their wattles a striking cadmium against the greens and browns. Another group of black-tailed deer bound downhill and out of sight.

It is such a privilege to be among them, privy to their beauty, wondering over their inner workings.

What can I give back? A chance to scatter? A great emptiness in which to store wonder?

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