A fresh blanket of snow lays on the land. Curly dock, plantain and mullein are all tucked in and dreaming of dog days. It’s noiseless but for the sound of snow falling. A peculiar sound, soft as soft can be. And I look out into the darkness and what do I think of? Frogs.
The human brain is peculiar too. Can we not bask in the glories of winter? Do we always have to look ahead or behind? I think it’s the lack of sound that makes me think of those cold, male peepers somewhere in some state of meditation. No wind in leaves. No insects. No birds. All is quiet but his memory. All is resting but the dream of a tiny, grayish frog with an ‘X’ on his back, thrusting out his peeping pipe and playing his part in the cold, wet sex of spring.
Yes, we are peculiar for denying our predicament and for not appreciating the present as it could be appreciated. What does the peeper think of me? He doesn’t bother. Why think of anything at all, he says.
‘Deny thy nature and refuse thy name“. You think of me, peeper. And I’ll be like you and think of nothing (and indeed, everything) at all. I just have to turn off this brain, these peculiar thoughts. But it’s our nature to think, isn’t it? To be in the first snows of winter and to think of spring. To be in the burning heat of August and think of locust logs and feeding the fire in the cold of winter’s night. To be alive and to think of death.
I remember when I fell in love with my wife, as she was singing pop songs to me from her horse and riding ahead of me too fast. It was when she laughed at me as the great nest of ants spit their acid in my face and covered my glasses, startling me. It was when I kept asking her and asking her, “What are you thinking?” And she would answer, “Nothing at all.”
Sometimes simplicity is blinding. Sometimes grace is revealed when thoughts are left to fall away.
I could spend all day in the woods on a day like this where the the snow wears a record of every movement. The deer come through this way following our trails through the woods that were made mainly by widening and clearing their trails. So whose trails are they? Well, we stay on the trails almost exclusively, so I say they are our trails. The deer don’t argue with me. They figure that if they have free reign, unlimited use and access then I can claim possession of them all I want. They’re not aware of what a dangerous proposition it is when a white man claims possession of something.
I admire the squirrel’s trick of not coming down to the ground from his own tree. He crosses through the branches to another tree and comes down a different trunk. And there are the tracks of a mouse. See how light that mouse is? What need is there for scales and measurements? The ounces are left in the snow. The lightest, softest snow and the mouse dances across with the slightest of imprint.
We question the thoughts and direction of deer. Does she go to the Japanese honeysuckle along the fence to eat the greenest thing at eye-level? And what was she doing when she turned in seeming hesitation or indecision and then continued on her way?
I could spend all day in the snow and sun, pushing my boots through in lazy, bundled and luxurious steps.
The beaver felled a large tulip tree west of the pond. His work was increased because it fell toward the woods when it’s top could have reached the pond. If only the beaver had used wedges and practiced directional felling. Beaver, let me introduce you to Soren Erickson.
Beaver is limbing his way up the trunk now and has taken off the branches closest to the water and drug them under already. And along the trunk he has made some marks. Tasting? Warming up those great incisors to begin the day?
A couple three years ago, the dogs caught a beaver out along persimmon creek in the north pasture and I brought the body back under our oaks behind the house. I don’t remember dismembering the thing but I kept the tail drying on top of the chicken run where I would occasionally remember it and take it down for admiration. And I took the head and I put in under a bucket behind the garage. I figured the various insects (Silphidae) and decomposers would clean it for me. And I don’t remember now how good a job they did. But I had the skull for a while. And those great incisors became loose so that you could slide them out of the skull. And they were these great, amazing, orange-yellow things that curved up around the brain of the animal. I think these are in some cigar box somewhere with the great treasures that we are wont to collect.
Don’t all people have these treasure boxes of precious things that are held on to? Things entirely meaningless, if perhaps interesting to other people. Things of no earthy or economic value but tangible shreds of memories. Mementos like a rock with a hole in it, the lucky top of a pop can or a bracelet of simply woven thread. These are the incorruptible treasures, moth and rust be damned. These are the treasures that we’ll carry with us to heaven.
Sometimes talking about an idea can ruin it. Explaining the magic drains the magic’s power. And the best things are always secret, the right hand left in the dark. You talk in the closet. You lift your brightest thoughts to God from the deepest swamp, where the ground floats and the sumac is poison. The Bible says it is to be so, none of this crying in the streets or spiritual materialism. Trungpa says it is to be so. When things are explained, they are taken away. Sometimes being given form is taking away beautiful formlessness. And when a thing is spoken (or indeed written) it disappears.
I’m taking things down to mineral soil. I am cutting life to bare essential.
What if success is absolutely nothing? Then everything beyond nothing, every addition, is icing, icing on a cake. And if happiness is success and you’re happy with nothing then you can never fail.
But, if it is fear of failure that is driving you to these mental constructions then it is just an ego trip. It is a strange, peculiar, circuitous and awfully beautiful ego trip.
“When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.” – Bob Dylan
broadleaf plantain (Plantago major)
curly dock (Rumex crispus)
common mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)