It has been a while.
My head has cleared a little and my brain has healed enough for me to exercise some. Only occasionally will I feel dizzy. I can’t hear well with my left ear but that could be from when Chimba caught me with a right-hook sparring, back when I used to box in Ulaanbaatar.
The brain is one thing and the mind another. I can heal my mind with the wheelbarrow now. Load by load, mind is repaired. A tri-axle dump truck of mulch is the best of therapists.
Meditation is a loaded word but I am not afraid. Walking across the orchard, balancing mulch and mindful of the uneven ground, that’s wheelbarrow meditation. There is no need to dwell on anything. The wheel makes tracks in the grass from the furthest chestnut and to the closest peach. Sometimes I dodge the crawdad chimneys. Sometimes I kick them down.
American toads trilled for the first time this spring as I went out with the twenty gauge. I was wearing a fleece over my red flannel robe with box of slugs in the pocket. I’m not trying to hurt the beavers. I’m trying to kill them.
The moon is getting bright, waxing toward blood. It shines on the water when there aren’t any clouds. Sometimes I sit in a plastic chair on the edge of the spillway. On the orchard side and under a cattle panel arbor, I lean my head against the gate-post and rest the barrel on the cedar gate. My eyes focus on nothing. The slightest silver wake shines silently led by a black beaver head. It takes a while to convince yourself that you’re not seeing things. I take a shot but I usually miss by a wide mark. The slug splashes in the water and he dives quick and comes up a little ways off and gives three pounding, angry splashes with his tail.
Once, I hit him with buckshot and he slowly dove underwater and took the next few days off. Now I only use slugs.
The dogs have had better luck killing beaver than I have. Our orange dog got pretty torn up and he’s still licking some deep wounds that we guess came from beaver. Around the time we discovered the wounds, we found a dead beaver drug to the top of the hill by the barn. When I saw it our white dog had already eaten the tail. We celebrated a small beaver battle victory.
These battles with nature are all in our minds and eventually we lose every one of them. Sometimes fighting to preserve the illusion keeps us sane. A strange kind of sanity, like beautiful, bound Chinese feet.
Yellow-breasted warbler and Northern parula, just in from South America provide the soundtrack to all this ephemeral flower business. I’d been confusing sharp-lobed hepatica (Anemone hepatica) with spring beauty, I think, but you focus on the foliage and it is clear. I’ll have to go back and look for the seedpods of twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) to collect. They make little animal mouths that can be painted to added effect.
So far, it is the year of blood-root (Sanguinaria canadensis) but I saw my first snow trilliums (Trillium nivale). False rue anemone (enemion biternatum) is colonial and almost always has five petals. ‘True’ rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is found solitary and with usually more than five petals. Remember putty root orchid (Aplectrum hyemale) flowers in the first weeks of June and remember too, the naked flower of wild leek (ramps), round the first of August.
Naming these things in the woods gives them power. It gives them wholly justified power. The deeper I dig in this business the more powerful they become. When the clump of grass-like growth in the upland forest becomes Pennsylvania sedge and the red-tailed hawk soaring over head is ignored for attention to the song of spring migrants, fresh from the Andes, then you know you are in deep. And you measure your life by the ephemeral blooms that you have in your future. “If I’m lucky, I’ll see the blood-root bloom like this twenty more times”, they say. I love to hear people talk like that. “Go learn the sedges” they tell me. And I just might.
Amazing powers of these plants seem to have stopped the damming of a river in our Indiana. Who knew a fen and some dragonflies could overthrow the hopes and dreams of the pleasure-cruising class? Who knows but some sedges might over power dreams of lake-front property development. But learn their names and you’ll see.
I think out loud. Very little is sacred to me. Or everything is sacred. But I could drop it all on a dime. Or I could sacrifice my life for it. Mainly, I am just a reflection seeking things to reflect. I’m a mirror looking for identity in the flat images that show on me.
Adyashanti talks about how walking on the ground can restore balance and move energy where it needs to be moved. Bare-feet are the prescription. The earth works the pressure points in your feet. And I think about the voles and moles being massaged as they push swimmingly through the topsoil.
It’s more rodents than I know what to do with.