The stars were out in full tonight, Milky Way and all, as we took the long walk back from the lakeside. Felt like winter, especially with the chilly breezes off the water. Looking at the lake with the fish line out, I felt like all my memories and thoughts could pass before me, unproduced and free, open, traceless, appearing in all their forms without disturbing the radiant space, the open sky, the rippling water.
Recently I was down in the forest, and I tried out this bird call my parents always used when we were walking in the woods. It goes “pshhh...pshhh...pshhh...pshhh” -- like that, and then you stop and listen for a bit and call again. I found a good spot in some bushes, with some higher trees a bit distant, but nowhere for the birds to perch near me except for at my level. I was barefoot, squatting under a bush, making the call and looking and listening. Within a minute or two a group of little brown/white finches approached, and before I knew it they were jumping around in the bushes about ten feet from me, checking me out, very interested. We watched each other, and they gave out their short, sharp calls. After a couple of minutes I heard a magpie’s call from above me, and I looked up to see the bird, iridescent shining black in the evening light in sharp contrast with sharp white on the wings and belly, flying a wide but visible circle around me. I slowly turned to the chichran bushes where it might have come from, and noticed another magpie perched on the top of the nearest bush, clearly visible. How long had he been watching me? Then two more cousins, in the poplar nearby, then at least eight, scattered and grouped, hopping around in the bushes, watching, maybe thirty feet away. It’s a regular cinema here, I’m thinking, and suddenly they begin to take off. With harsh cries and flapping of wings they take to the air, following each other north toward the lake, and I realize there are a dozen, twenty, must be fifty birds flying after each other across the field and away.
Every time I go and walk quietly or just sit in the woods I see something amazing. Frogs sunning on a stream’s bank. A spider’s web. A hawk perching nearby, spreading its wings and soaring away. The natural world is a wonderful place, and it will quickly return to normal around you if you can still your body and your mind. Fall is an incredible time to be outside, especially on the East Coast where many of you are. Don’t forget to get outside and enjoy it!