I grew up reading Hal Borland, best known as a nature writer although trained as a journalist. He could read his woodland surroundings like a book and report on them in exquisite detail. Because he relied on perception as well as observation, he made the everyday sing.
And he was perceptive about the human condition, too, finding parallels and contrasts. “You can’t be suspicious of a tree,” he wrote, “or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.”
I need to see a violet or something else native in bloom, and soon. to validate spring and have been patroling the woods in search. Green is emerging, but too slowly.
Why is it when I complain about how fast time passes that this time of year I'm anxious for it to pass more quickly?
Soon enough, everything will be misted in green and then there will be an explosion of color. Usually OK with winter because of the seed of potential within it, this in-between season is giving me trouble.
I was thinking a little more about the Keokuk County sheriff's deptuty, Eric Stein, shot to death by a deranged man near Sigourney on Monday. Even along the woodland trails the carelessly destructive expressions of humanity aren't far away.
Sheriff William B. Ramsey was shot to death by a deranged man down near Freedom in 1889; Sheriff's Deputy Eric Stein was shot to death by a deranged man near Sigourney in 2011. We've created cyberspace but not conquered mental illness.
We seem to be more suspicious of one another, more prone to accuse each other of subversion, more afraid of ideologies that conflict with our own than we were back in 1889. Why is that?
The thing about a walk in the woods, however, is that if you start attending to the details all of that conflict slips away and a state that is almost prayer-like takes it place.
If I had been fully attunted to the cares of the world and my neighbor's business yesterday afternoon, I wouldn't have stooped down to examine the tiny bright spot in the trail I though was a shard of plastic. It turned out to be a scarlet mushroom.
Nor would I have noticed the detail of other tiny mushrooms on a fallen limb along the trail.
I wonder if part of our collective problem --- increasing violence, increasing suspicion, increasing hostility ---- is related to the fact we're seeing too much of each other and too little of our partners in creation out in the woods. I'll keep patrolling for violets --- and when I figure this out will let you know.