Back to Nature (Published on - Feb. 16, 2005)
Things aren’t always as they appear
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Look closely – things aren’t always as they appear to be.
The old man prodded his garden with a timeworn spade, twisting and turning the clumps of earth to the surface. Each row was prepared as if in expectation. His brown gnarled hands gently spread a layer of peat moss and compost over the surface as his great-grandfather had done a hundred years before him.

“It doesn’t matter how you plant a garden as long as you supply the basic ingredients for cultivation. I plant mine this way ’cause that’s what my pappy taught me to do when I grew up in Italy. You can make most anything sprout to seedling. The hard part is to have the determination and will to keep it growing. Lot’s of folks start something but aren’t prepared to finish it. You gotta appreciate the miracle of nurturing something to life with your own hands same as with kids. Most people want the flowers but don’t want the work that goes with it. I learned a long time ago, a garden isn’t what it seems to be on the surface. There’s gotta be someone always tending the soil.”

Sitting around an open fire warming our hands, smoke curling around our heads into the night sky, I listened as an Elder spoke of change, tolerance and balance. She spoke of history, past wrongs and events that burdened. She spoke of love that leads to tolerance. She spoke of tolerance that leads to balance.

“I keep telling people it’s what’s in your heart and by our actions we are known. It doesn’t matter what color your eyes are or how you braid your hair. That doesn’t determine the path you choose to walk or what’s in your heart or determine your actions. There are those that claim to be Indian but will never have an Indian heart. They may beat their drums and dress in the finest beaded leather. They may dance with abandon and call to Creator arms up in the air. But Creator knows what’s in their hearts.

“I’ve met many a gentle, good hearted soul. There are those that walk upon this earth in sincerity while not claiming to be anyone other than who they are. They walk quietly and are known by the love and nurturing of those around them. There is no pretense in their steps or trickery in their words. Creator recognizes a good heart. Love leads to tolerance. Tolerance leads to balance. Are we in balance with our Universe? I’ve learned that things aren’t always as they appear to be.”

Our narrow path widened from the cool, shaded shelter of the oak hammock into a gateway leading to an open area of patchy weeds clinging to dusty brown and white barren sand. As if a hapless beach lost and forgotten during the age of the dinosaurs where once pterodactyls soared upon tropical breezes while saber-toothed tigers protected their young below, the terrain spread sizzling under the noon day sun. How can any being forge out a living upon such lifeless soil, I wondered?

The young man next to me pointed, “Look, there’s a yellow bird bathing in the dust.” My eyes scanned the landscape but were unable to focus on any bird, much less a yellow one. I turned to the young man and smiled, “You’re teasing me, yes?”

“No really, right there in the sand. Look, he’s pecking at the soil,” he said in earnest. I looked again and sure enough right before my eyes a yellowish bird with olive brown back appeared.

“A prairie warbler,” I affirmed. How fascinating it was that this colorful bird was able to disappear, camouflaged upon the dusty soil. Things aren’t always as they appear to be.

An art student asked me how is it that black is not a color but white is the combination of all colors? I explained as best I could. Visible light contains approximately equal proportions of all colors. All frequencies of visible light come together to form white light. The resulting white is a mixture of the seven spectral colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). We “see” the colors but they are apparent to our eyes as blended white. Things aren’t always as they appear to be.

Nature teaches us about reality and deception. Eventually the riddle is solved or the impostor is exposed. An honest soul, a genuine hand, the faithful path, the tolerant acceptance, the unbiased mind, the loving heart, the open arms are known by the crops harvested, the children raised, the hands healed and the inspiration sincerely passed on and shown from caring hand to hand, through generations in balance, back to nature.

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