Amongst The Leaves


Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings. The reality will make any sincere record respectable. No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma. this may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.

Henry David Thoreau

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I sought a bit of solitude today, amongst the leaves and branches, in the small woods nearest my home.  It was not long after calling in to my job to say that I could not make it in today that I did so.  I would have gone to work, and earned my daily bread, but I had reasons to not go in.  Chief amongst them was phone calls that had to be made, which have since been made (more on that in the next article, perhaps), about money owed, both to me and from me.  Money, always money, as if the world was made of the stuff.  Money,  which seems to some to make the world go round.  What it does is makes the world ill, most are more concerned with the movements of money than each other, and it heightens trivial concerns to major importance, makes mountains out of pebbles.

But I digress…

As I started the walk to the customary place, royal oak, a very small but fairly densely packed wood surrounded by civilization but not penetrated by it, with something of a plodding step, I was tired.  I felt it deep in my bones, like old age had suddenly caught me and made me it’s humble servant against my wishes.  The spring in my step had sprung, and I felt done.  I don’t think I looked the part though.  Denim shorts, blue ripped t-shirt, black sneakers, headphones on.  I didn’t go with the customary Metallica this time, choosing instead to walk with another companion, the band “Live”, the album “throwing copper”, a companion from years back, when I was traveling to Boston every other weekend in the mid 90’s to meet my girlfriend, who in time became my wife.

I made my way through the side streets, numbly, to the pulse of the rhythm of the music, as if the music itself animated my movement and gave me impetus to keep moving. 

When I reached the park where the woods are, I was almost immediately annoyed.  People, both ahead and behind me.  Normally in a city of millions that would not only not be an issue, it would be something you’d barely be conscious of.  Not I.  I saw them as an intrusion into my space and, vastly quickening my pace, made a right hand turn into the first small opening into the woods available. 

The verdure was beautiful.  In a span of seconds, I had gone from a place populated by people, frustrations, concerns and worries, to a simple happy place, surrounded by green on all sides, the sound of the street disappearing completely when the sight of it went away. 

In a heartbeat I felt strong again.  My pace, which went from a tired shuffle to a hurried angry gait, became at once an energetic saunter, my stride lengthening considerably, and slowing just a bit from my escape speed from moments before, when I was trying to get away from everyone. 

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Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation. Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows of poverty and meanness gather around us, “and lo! creation widens to our view.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, conclusion

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Then I began to look. 

For the tree. 

The one which had seemed in winter to be like 5 broken spindly fingers reaching from the ground towards the sky.  I hadn’t been to that part of the woods since the massive windstorm of two months before.  I had only ever really looked at it, and for it, in winter, and hadn’t ever seen it with leaves on it.  When I saw it during the winter, it looked…well… dead. I wasn’t certain that it could be alive, and was expecting to see it broken, dead amongst the leaves and green grasses.

After stepping over several dead trees that occupied the leaf, stick, and rock strewn paths in the woods, I made the right hand turn towards the spot where the old tree stood.  Paths that had for decades been covered with dirt had had that dirt washed away by rain and winds, exposing large areas of bare rock in a number of places, where only a small bit of it had been visible prior, and only in very small tracts. 

Stepping over what had to be the fifth dead tree in the path, I saw it.

It was alive and sprouting green like all the other trees that were still standing.  I was amazed and overjoyed.  Over the flowering, for lack of a better term, of what I thought was a dead tree, growing leaves, just like all the rest.  Alive and kicking, or more aptly put, alive and growing.  The outer edge of the tree, the part that faced the path, still looked dead, and the fingers were still spindly and broken looking, but each of the fingers had branches that all were full of leaves, leaves that were swaying with the breeze, which was blowing gently westward.

I touched the tree, looked up for a few seconds, and said “yer a tough sonofabitch, ain’t ya?”  and walked away, a smile on my face.

The stride was back, the energy had returned, I felt better.  I had been back to see an old friend named nature, back to see and feel the earth, see the trees, listen to the wind and the quiet of a place without people.

It felt good.

There is more to tell, but I think I will save it for another time. 

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My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter ii

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