Yesterday afternoon I took a good look at my lilac hedge. It was was waving back and forth like a metronome set on “allegro.” The wind meant that the bugs out at the Refuge would not molest me. I put Teddy’s jacket on him, and off we went.
All around were dragonflies in love, a wonderful thing to see. How cool would that be to be stuck together, flying through the air on a breeze while, you know, doing THAT?? It also means baby dragonflies, and THAT makes me happy because dragonflies eat deer flies. I wished them a successful fleshment.
I watched a Harrier Hawk female evade a few little birds, and, later, a red tail hawk evaded some other little birds or maybe the same ones. There were some ruddy ducks, mallards and coots. Most of Canada geese have gone. I always wonder how many of these birds are able to hatch their eggs and raise their young to migrating ability — I don’t think many. Some years I see them swimming with a little train of young geese, but not so far this year. The black-crowned night herons have arrived, but I haven’t been able to spend time where they like to hang out.
Teddy and I walked our walk. I looked, Teddy sniffed, and all was right with the world. Not too long after we headed back the great miracle happened. An American Avocet flew past my face about 2 feet away, heading for the large pond. Wow.
Last year, about this time, as I was leaving after a walk, I saw two adult Avocets walking on the road, frantically looking over their shoulders. I wondered why they didn’t fly. I couldn’t see beyond the hood of my car, so I stopped. Soon I saw they had chicks with them. I put Bella in reverse, backed down the road for half a mile where I could turn around, and drove out the “wrong” way. I’d like to think that the Avocet who gave me such a beautiful gift yesterday was a member of that family. It’s not likely, but it’s the kind of story that would make a nice kid’s book.
I thought about this long apprenticeship as I walked. I don’t see anything twice. I might see another Red Tail Hawk or the same Red Tail Hawk, but it won’t be doing exactly the same thing in the same way. And I’m never the same “Martha.” I am sure I act upon the natural world. I will never know how other than the times I disturb a bird from its perch, a vole from its hiding place, a salamander from its saunter.
On my walks, I’ve often thought about the trap of language. Is the word the thing? I don’t think so. I think the thing is the thing. I thought of the Tao Te Ching, the phrase, “More words count less: hold fast to the center“, which years ago I printed out and taped over my desk (irony?). And here I am now, about to write a LOT of words on the subject of no words. I guess words are humanity’s province.
The Tao Te Ching has been translated in so many different ways. This is the one I learned, with my edits. I like the word “ruthless,” but it can imply malice… And “dummies” can mean different things…
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 5
Heaven and earth are
They see the ten thousand things as
The wise are
They see the people as
The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows.
The shape changes but not the form;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More words count less.
Hold fast to the center.
I try, when I’m out there, not to put words or human values on things, but it’s impossible. I see a place where it looks like some coyotes pushed the reeds/cattails down to get to a duck nest. I know there was a duck nest in that spot because I heard them for a few weeks. I’ve seen the eggshells and the battered plants and mud. I have somehow to navigate the narrow human trail between being happy the wild dogs got food and sorry for the ducks. It seems the breeding pair got away — there would be a lot of evidence if they hadn’t. If they could, they did. If not?
That neutrality is — almost paradoxically — love. All my dogs, the pain of losing one, and in these years, I’ve learned one thing, and I learned it from a dog. My golden retriever, Kelly, died suddenly of a coronary in my living room as I was getting food for my dogs. I came out to the living room and found her dead. She was the second dog I had lost, and I was devastated. I held her close to me, my chin on her head. After a little while, my dog, Truffle, came to me and, with her nose, lifted my chin off of my dead dog so that I was looking at her, Truffle. She said, “I’m sorry Kelly is dead, but I’m not.” I loved on my good, living dog, and got up from the floor to take care of the remains of my dead dog. As Truffle said, “There are other dogs.”
I’m sure those ducks did everything in their power to make a safe nest for their eggs, but when they couldn’t, they headed to Montana. I’ve seen this in nature over and over, the vast bellows between Earth and sky. I attempt to see the story that I find in front of me, always challenged to see it for what it is while accepting its beautiful gifts, given with total neutrality. And that is — as far as I can tell — the neutrality of the Tao. It’s pretty incomprehensible for us human beings, but it is love.
Sorry about all the words 😉
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