Layers of Life

 

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Just outside my patio there is a large azalea bush. It blooms beautiful pink-orange blossoms for about two weeks each year, usually in May. The rest of the year it looks like most any large green bush.

I was sitting by the sliding glass doors that lead to the patio today and I noticed that there was a small swarm of gnats circling in chaotic patterns over the top of the bush. I had never noticed them before. Then I began to think of all the life associated with that one azalea bush.

There are the gnats, who seemed to find it for the moment entirely fascinating, and also a family of sparrows who make it their year-round home, along with a pair of wrens, and family (the baby who keeps trying to get into the apartment and makes me wonder if it is my Dad reincarnated because he loved wrens and loved to sing) and the cardinal pair who drop by for periodic visits along with the butterflies who arrive happily during that colorful two weeks, and disappointedly the rest of the year and the curious bees, especially the large bumblebees who find it intriguing along with the juncos, winter residents, and the wood doves, who love to sun themselves at the base of it next to the ants who make their homes in the soil and climb the wall beside it to get the larger view while beneath the soil, mixed in with the roots, who knows what denizens lurk—grubs and worms and for 16 and a half years, surely cicadas too, to say nothing of a teeming microbiome wholly unknown to me as I stare out.

Sorry—I’ve been reading Kerouac again.

Life is more than we know.

Attention is a path to joy.

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Tree Song

I don’t know why the caged bird sings. But I think I may have finally figured out why the others do.

I take walks every day down a wooded path behind my home. Sometimes so many birds are singing it sounds like a choir. Other times there are only one or two at each turn of the path. Occasionally the songs sound like a dialogue, sometimes a Bach canon. But most often the sounds are clearly ecstatic, a brimming forth of some secret joy.

I believe I have discovered the source of that joy. Each bird is singing about how beautiful its tree is. How delicately shaped each leaf as it twists in the breeze. How the broad canvas of the whole creates ever evolving shadows on the ground. How the Fibonacci architecture of the branches leads right up to the sky.

Birds never sing about what time they have to get to the bird feeder, or whether they need a bath, or the bird next door, or even that tree they saw two weeks ago. They only sing of the beauty in front of them.

Each bird sings in its own language. Birds are very smart; each knows all the languages of all the birds. But when they sing of trees they sing in their own tongue, the one they hold in their heart.

And when they fly to the next tree, birds sing about how beautiful that tree is. And I agree with them.

I have never seen a tree that was not beautiful, from smallest sapling to startling senior. And unique – no tree the same as any other– even the aspen trees (which reproduce by what is called root sprouting and are in a sense one tree) are genetically identical but never quite the same in appearance. I wonder sometimes if  the beauty of trees has something to do with their uniqueness—and if we were more aware of it in humankind, we might see more beauty in each other.

Do the trees listen to the birds? I think so. Do they appreciate the praise? I’m not so sure. The lives of trees seem unconcerned with birds, or squirrels, or humans. They have their own purposes in their long lives.

What beauty do trees sing about?

I doubt we will ever know.

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Peace

I was sitting outside on my porch today reading for a few hours. All during that time birds came visiting. First there was a beautiful jay, stunning blue and quiet for once, nestled into a spot in the sun just a few feet away. Then a robin. Then a few grosbeaks. Some sparrows. Dad’s favorite wren who lives in the azalea next door. A woodpecker on the nearby tree. Others I couldn’t name. And now there is a doe settled in the shadowed grass about 100 feet away, testing the breeze, with a young buck standing close. Just living. All just living.

Why can’t every place be this peaceful?

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