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It’s easy to lose sight of how fortunate we are to live where we do. The approach of winter (we can’t stop its arrival) causes a certain amount of “it’s coming to get us” anxiety, but we pull ourselves together and soldier on knowing there’s dazzling brilliance in winter that offsets the inconvenience of an icy drive to work. There’s not much to love in shoveling snow, but the exercise is a benefit if a person doesn’t overdo and tackles the task with as much savvy as brute force.
There are times when North Country life is more rewarding than words can contain, though I confess I’ve often lost track of that and got stuck in a routine of human endeavor that keeps me outside the bounds of nature. For long periods I’ll slip into a narrow pattern of work, store, home, firewood, work, home, etc. Life has grown very limited, indeed, when it feels like an event when you break the usual cycle with a side trip to the hardware store or for fuel. Now admittedly, those things do break the other routine. I swipe my credit card in a different slot and see different faces behind the register, but you’re not exactly on holiday filling the tank or searching the hardware bins. These are small diversions that really don’t amount to much even if after filling the truck I think of the days when my monthly mortgage payment was near the size of my weekly gas bill. I am fairly frugal but am none-the-less continually stunned at the way funds speed away so much faster than they dribble in. I think this is called the weight of the world. At least if feels that heavy when an individual struggles under a load, one we often unwittingly make worse by adding anxiety on the balance beam against us.
I’m fortunate enough to live surrounded by woods where my four legged neighbors are inspired this time of year to turn everything I’ve planted (there’s nothing my deer won’t eat except tires) into a smorgasbord. The McCormick combine has nothing on these reapers, but even if you live 20 floors up in a building nature will find you and leave her message with a frosted message or in a draft of bracing air as you step into the early morning cold. Though my eye opener comes with more greenery, it’s much the same thing. I think of it as a wake up and as a reminder of all that other part of life I take for granted or dismiss while I’m caught up in life’s regular routines. I know that bigger world is out there. I know everything we do depends some way or other on nature, nature we humans have molded to our will so electric current flows contained along pathways of wire instead of blasting at us in devastating bolts.
Civilization gives us a different relationship with nature, but it’s a fundamental connection no less. We are creatures in and of nature. Nature is our source. That’s true whether you believe in a creator or not because if there was creation the building blocks were and are drawn from nature. At our level of complex organism we might feel superior, more evolved or if you prefer more developed in our parts than say a snail or a meadow vole. They too are complex, but not so much as we.
What I’m building up to here isn’t too complicated. I only want to say that I took a walk in the woods last week. Autumn is a great time for that. With the leave off a person can see detail of the land that was earlier covered and hidden in green. Summer hikes are pleasant, but in comparison to the pre winter version a summery walk is a bit like swimming through a pillow filled with green feathers allowing a few breaks overhead or when the path crosses a divide to present a vista. Otherwise you’re in the tunnel of the green goddess of nature. It can be a bit overwhelming plus there’s sweaty and buggy, too along with it.
The autumn plate is different. I might not be the best to describe it, but there is for me something in the fall air that carries messages, messages, messages to far places in body, brain, and being. It feels as if I’m inhaling information as I breathe. Fallen leaves and frost nipped grassy stems exude a chemical history of some sort that is more than a synopsis of summer because it also contains the fact of decay and with it the promise of future rebirth and renewal. The woods in autumn is as complex in its chemistry as is the terrain it reveals free of the summery hurly burly of riotous green bursting from every place in its great hurry to grow, grow, grow. That’s done for now. The autumn signals are of a different tone and direction.
No matter how far removed we feel or think ourselves to be from nature we aren’t really so distant after all. There’s a nature of flora in our guts that allow us to digest. We are a part of nature. Much can be overlaid onto that to impose human based interpretations of value systems. Though we sometimes think it the most important thing in our existence, none of us would last long trying to eat money.
Traipsing the woods the other day I was reminded of much it’s easy to overlook in daily life. I was reminded that in some ways my being is primitive and animistic. I cannot stop my spirit from feeling nature nor can I control the direction of what I feel. For whatever cause or reason I’m powerfully attracted to the messages of autumn. They “fit” me in much the same way my “natural” direction of choice is north. It doesn’t matter why. It simply IS that each of us has his/her own strong season and preferred direction. Many teachings have tried to convince me this is not so and that my true path was revealed some other way. There is some merit in those paths, but in a few gulps of aromatic autumn air I felt again that older path and it filled me, filled me, filled me to the rim.