Back to Nature (Published on - April 20, 2005)
Return to the earth ... innocence
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Around the prayer circle thistle blossomed begging the attention of little bees and butterflies.
An old pier fell in ruins near the water’s edge. Gaping holes had become overgrown with cattails and purple loosestrife.

Despite its aged appearance and obvious need for repair, the pier seemed comfortable with its wild surroundings, as if it had found its own natural place to rest.

At the end of the pier an anhinga spread her wings to dry in the sun while perched upon a rickety railing. An alligator mom floated nearby guarding her twins. It was obvious that no human had set foot here in a long while.

The morning breeze was cool, fresh and delicately scented with orange blossom perfume. A layer of dew clung to every surface. He confessed to himself that he’d not known what to expect when he’d packed his belongings into the Jeep yesterday morning. His simple goal was to return to the peaceful land of the grandmothers.

He’d set out on Highway 301 amid throngs of commuters jockeying for position on their way to work and headed toward the sunrise. He needed to be grounded by the Mother. His body and mind ached to lay in her arms and feel her breathe against his cheek. He needed to be a child again, innocent, allow his spirit to be free and he needed to cry with the ancients. He felt isolated as if on a prairie with no landmarks and no direction home. He felt lost. He felt drained. He felt his spirit abandoned.

A dilapidated barn leaned to the south in resistance to the northern winds. The gapped opening strung with a network of dew diamonds upon spider webs that looked like an organdy veil sparkling in sunlight. Inside was home to a variety of critters that watched his movements with idle curiosity; a family of mice, a gray, dabbed nest of swallows almost hidden upon an eave and a soft, brown rabbit nibbling upon fresh greens. He found an old rake that had been propped against an inner wall. He wiped off the cobwebs and gave it a good shake.

Between the barn and the lake a prayer circle had been placed. It was overgrown with bright purple thistle and stinging nettle, giving the impression it had been abandoned. He walked the circle with sage and prayers and then with gloved hands he began to pull at the weeds to clear the land.

The first of the gray stones of the circle revealed itself from its dormancy, as the pile of weeds and old burnt timber began to grow. He lifted a small round board painted with the symbol of the four directions. Hidden there was a yellow and red package of tobacco and four small prayer ties, dusty but otherwise untouched … a fire remembered … prayers honored. A small pile of kindling had been neatly arranged in preparation for the next fire.

He sprinkled sage upon the kindling, dusted off the remaining stones, spread a blanket upon the cool, dark earth, struck a match and lit the fire, opened the tobacco and offered a prayer. Around the prayer circle thistle blossomed begging the attention of little bees and butterflies. Beyond that circle grew another circle of wild things that had found their place here, nightshade, lobelia, oxalis, butterfly weed, crane’s bill and sky flower, a mixture of colors and textures that led down to the lake.

Alone he stoked the fire. Alone he walked the circle. Alone he offered his prayers until he felt he wasn’t alone anymore. His sweat upon the earth, his breath upon the fire, the smoke upon his clothing, the breeze upon his cheek, his feet upon the earth, the dust stirred upon his breath, his tears upon the ground, the dew upon his face, the fire’s warmth upon his heart, his songs upon the winds, his eyes upon the lake, the birds upon the trees, his hands upon drum, his heartbeat rhythmic with the crackling fire.

The melody of the moment brought with it questions for his heart: What is real? Who can you believe? Where do we begin or end? At his feet he picked up the hardened shell of a pecan and thought, like the pecan it must drop back to the earth so it can grow into an abundant, protective tree.

We need direction, solace, to renew our spirits, to be nurtured by the Mother. We need to put distance between us and negativity and protect ourselves from those forces. It is necessary to tend the fire and shelter the fire from the storms. While rains become lakes and dew become showers, tears become streams and streams become clouds. All things need to be gently returned to the earth, innocence, back to nature.

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