watercolor illustration of crows flying through spring trees by Alexandra Schaefers

The scent of Magnolia blossoms draws me along the trail into their grove. Some trees have already leafed, some have yet to bloom and there’s every stage between.

The blossoms form colored clouds around their home trees and layer against each other, against the green adding a murky aliveness to the quivering air. As if the oxygen molecules are moving to make room for the bursting buds and pin-prick sized rain droplets.

One crow forages alone at the edge of a large grassy slope punctuating the intense green. When I look down the trail I see flashes of other crow slipping between the trees. The cloud cover deepens their black feathers so they look like oil dripping through the woods.

watercolor illustration of a crow at the edge of a green slope by alexandra Schaefers

I sit on a bench here, a picnic table there, reaching into the lace of bird song for the familiars: scrub jays, yellow warblers, dark-eyed juncos, spotted towhees, crows. A woman walks past so engrossed in her phone her steps seem suspended, in slow motion, a Tai Chi practice perhaps. I do not think I exist in her attention or peripheral vision and for that moment I feel how a forest creature might while hiding in its own stillness watching the brash world of humans pass.

The rain drops become larger as I write in my sketchbook so I get on the trail again and head for the picnic shelter wishing I had brought a pen with waterproof ink.

A spotted towhee darts across the trail from one brushy cover to another. It is so funny to watch birds run even in situations where flight would be unwieldy. I feel as though my whole life is the same sort of comic but necessary dash. Somehow this inspires me to photograph the rusty hues of dead salal leaves and draw a few buds from the spray of spring twigs along the trail.

sketchbook drawing of spring maple buds by Alexandra Schaefers

A loud truck rumbles down Burnside. On the drive over I was preoccupied thinking about the importance of generosity in relationships, in art, in work. There are too many small things I am mad about that keep me just as small and ungenerous.

Now I feel almost aquatic in this dense plasma of life, snuggled on all sides in all moments by the world’s exhale and the viscosity of ions exchanging—green things sending ripples of freshness across the air as they turn light and water into fiber.

I came here to admire magnolia blossoms and end up with fish-sense, critter-sense. This seems like a bargain to me. What do I remember about the blossoms anyway? How delicate and soft the petals were even on blossoms larger than my hands.

watercolor painting of a magnolia blossom by Alexandra Schaefers

I get to the shelter but it’s almost time to go.

Can a person decide in one day to stop minding their worries, their frustrations—to let them fuss like small children while one goes about the business of enjoying life anyway?  I will find out. There is no reason today can’t be the day everything changes.

A junco flies in and hops around the rivets of the shelter support. Another lands on the trash and peers into its dark opening. He sees nothing of interest and flies off.

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