An editor once told me “Everyone has a story.” The woods have many stories and understories. This is one… It is about the simple beauty of the early summer understory and a delight filled traffic jam in the woods.
On a recent trip to the beach studio, I was waylaid for over an hour. The path goes from the top of a ridge, down a steep side trail through hardwoods. At the bottom of this path is a tranquil space of transition where the deep woods understory fades into sand, beach grass, ferns, and a plethora of tiny growth. Then the path goes through some more brush and sand. Animal and sometimes human tracks become visible in this stretch. Once through this twisty path, the world opens to sand, sky, beach grass and a sprinkling of twisted low pines. Then there are two dunes to climb and descend before reaching the beach and the expanse of Lake Superior. In all, the trek is about a three-quarters of a mile and usually takes about 15 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer, depending on the amount of equipment being backpacked… or a traffic jam.
On this particular day, there was a total traffic jam in the understory at the edge of the woods. More than an hour “stuck” going… nowhere? The wild orchids, starflowers, fuzzy ferns, and other tiny blooms were so abundant it was difficult to move ahead. Each careful step brought a new bloom into view. The late daylight was at a perfect angle, the wildflowers, the whole woods, inviting me to stop and play…. And then they began to speak with such joy, wisdom and kindness. When the woods speak, I listen.
This is their story in their words, as told to Sparkling Star Bear:
“Look at us! We won’t be here long! Look at me!” the Tiny Purples shouted in their brilliance.
“And look at me, too!” Starflower called quietly. “See how slender and graceful my leaves are…” it said shyly, ” and I have tiny yellow dots on my petals.”
The neighbors proclaimed boldly, “We have 4 fat white petals and 7 broad dark leaves! We are neighbors of the star… not as showy as the purples, yet we accent them in contrast. We offset their brilliance in our numbers… We are the chorus to their solos! As backdrop in this play ground… we are important, too! When we get older we will have bright red berries!”
“I am Fuzzy Fern unfurling, and I will be deep green and large in a week. Don’t fiddle around! I will soon cover those tiny wild things with my shade…” Said Sir Fern, giggling and nodding in the breeze.
Then all the greens began to clamor… “Over here, look over here, please! I am bright, I am light, I am yellow green!” the chorus chanted.
“I am deep green” said a full voice firmly, echoing richly between the trees. Then it added, “I am leaves, I am needles. I am growing and changing. I am dark, I am light. I am living and dying, I am old, I am young, all at the same time.”
The patient pines gracefully waved their fresh fingers of growth. “Touch me, I’m so soft,” one whispered, beckoning it’s out stretched hand. “Take my hand, smell my perfume if you wish..”
“Oh! You are so soft and so is your color…” I said as I reached out to gently respond to the invitation. “Your smell is so fresh! So green! So clean and crisp! Thank You!”
Pale Moss piped in. “I am pale blue green. Aren’t I pretty? I am soft, too, and although I look delicate, I am tough and resilient. You may lie on me, rely on me, to meet the tiny purples, if you want…”
“Thank you, I accept youroffer.” Pale Moss then softly cradled me as I lay eye to eye with Purple.
From beneath Pale Moss, Dead Brown Leaves spoke calmly, richly, “We nurture and accept all, without question. We support new life. Thank you for being here, noticing us, as humble as we are. The ancestors Thank You, too. It is time for you to leave, now. It will be growing dark soon. The last light will be perfect for your otherwork… if you leave now. We look forward to speaking with your again.”
“You are welcome, Dead Leaves. And thank you for your nurturing and advice.”
Heeding Sir Fern’s stern, yet kind message, and Dead Leaves affirmation, I continued to the beach… Joyfully laughing and thanking these little woodlings for their kindness, story, colors and wisdom. They filled my palette, my eyes, my heart and my head, with wisdom, joy, happiness, laughter. In return, they merely asked thatI tell their story of living together, sharing, changing, growing. And so it is told.
To hear these voices and meet these flowers, sometimes requires getting close to the earth, on hands and knees, then lying down on my belly with my third eye open… My third eye is my camera, connected to my heart, all of my senses. Sometimes I get to crawl through traffic jams, slowly, like a child and listen to stories in the woods.
May you listen quietly to little voices. Let them speak without judgement, like a child, from the heart.
Namaste ~ Star Bear
Copyright 2011 Betsy Lewis