Sunday, September 25, 2011

Touching a prayer

Big Rock Swimming Hole in autumn, Red River Gorge, KY. (c) RLMT
            In our few years of residence here, I have come to revere this little mountain, if for lack of other reasons, then for its many mysteries.  Growing up as I did in a neighboring highland valley, one presided over by a subsidiary hill of notable size, and a place only a few miles from where our home is now, the general wildlife population always felt familiar, like quiet neighbors going about their everyday business.  Yet on this sprawling heap of sandstone and heavy, clay-laden sand deposits, the ancient past exists in the way of open secrets.              
            Millipede-type creatures the length of my foot with heavily armored bodies, cave crickets with bodies larger than my thumb, iridescent dragonflies easily as large as ruby-throated hummingbirds… all of these creatures and more have casually shown up all around us here.  Each time they or some other strange creatures – including some odd-looking ‘walking sticks’, or creatures of the preying-mantis type –  appear, my thoughts go tumbling into vast expanses of geologic history, where all the signs cry out, “Here abide monsters!”  Let some furry arachnid scurry, as large as my hand, from beneath a rock or rotting log, or a shy little late-season worm snake be perhaps exposed in the turning of garden soil, and I want to stop the creature and ask, “What wonders have you seen?  From what primordial ooze have you sprung?”  And much more. 
            There are so many questions that I simply cannot capture them all.  Why, I wonder, are we given such capacity to choose our own paths, and yet we cannot seem to retain or learn from our past, either as individuals or as a species.  Understanding is then outweighed by fear, and that fear, by simple default of this progression, then kills.  Direct or indirect, literal fact or figurative as concept, destruction stalks those aspects of our world that get casually labeled as ‘other’. 
            It is a peculiar swing of the pendulum, for the balance is maintained through that very same diversity.  The same as a bright bouquet of flowers, all the differences make up the beauty of the whole.  Color, shape, the variegated essences blend and compliment, contrast and yet agree to disagree with elegance and grace. It is a wondrous ceremony of hard-core reality, light and dark as it may fall, for those with the eyes to see beyond unreasonable fears.
            None of the strange creatures I have mentioned are harmful.  Rather, each of them has a place and a necessary job to do.  Each of them both have and are checks and balances in a planet-sized web of connections to more of the same or similar.  Both habitat and creatures evolve.  Respect and genuine need for long-term changes of existence are mandatory without fail; call it the act of a deity or evolution, the result is the same.
            Every stroke of creation’s brush is a masterwork.  It is abstract, impressionist, ultra-realist, and divine of its own right.  As such, the creatures of this planet, from the tiniest microbe through the green and growing things, along with the serpents and amphibians and winged beings, beside the arachnids and insects even, is holy.
             Bless them, for they write their stories only in their descendants.  In the past lie seeds of hope, in the future, seeds of wonder.
             Each time I brush away sand, soil, or last year’s leaves from a bleached old skull of deer or bird, or find the discarded shell of a 17-year locust with a delicate blob of pine-sap on one fragile foot, that wonder comes full, sure, and lilting with curiosity.  When I gather up a handful of dry millipede carapace husks or a few bits of wild turkey down shed by last spring’s new hatchlings, or if I stop to blow gently across a downy dandelion top, I know I’m touching a prayer.
             No one and nothing is perfect.  Accepting that is accepting a plain truth.  Praise the truth, for it is freedom.  Write your own stories and be free.