Saturday, 6 April 2019

The Postman of Creation

The RS and I have turned over a new least, we’re trying. We have resumed our walking practice, which over the last few years has grown increasingly sporadic. We have a trip planned to Newfoundland this summer, and we do not want to look like those lazy tourists who only stop by the side of the road to take photos, but never get off the beaten path. It’s time to pull up our socks and strengthen those leg muscles. That’s the plan.

Now we try to get out there 5 days a week, sometimes alone, and sometimes together. If we can just get out there, it’s not hard to keep walking. It’s that first step out the door that’s difficult...

...especially when it's raining.
So Monday morning, out I went. It was a glorious day, and I had a brisk walk in mind. But first, a little detour down to the woods to see if the trilliums were blooming. They were. They stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes, stopping is as good an exercise as a brisk walk.

Do you have a magic place you visit where time stands still, at least for a little while? Where you feel as though there is nothing between you and the universe and the Creator of it all? Your heart slows, your senses are heightened, and the world is new all over again. This was my spot, and this where my detour became the main thing. “Brisk walk” was no longer part of today's plan. This, my soul told me, is a time to sit or stand still, or drift along slowly, feeling suffused with wonder. This is a time to absorb, to observe with new eyes, to be open to what messages may be waiting for you in amongst the trees, mosses, birdsong, and trilliums pushing up out of the ground. This was where I was right now, and I stopped.

The thing is, I’ve been working on an art piece featuring a pileated woodpecker, a resident of this woods, and it just hasn’t come together.

The harder I tried to impose my vision on this art piece, the tougher it became. I’d read all the literature about the bird, I’d studied dozens of photos, but I’d forgotten to stop trying so hard and instead start listening. As a visual artist, I resonate deeply with this quote I read recently by Kenneth Clark, an art historian: “Creation is a response; it is not something you have to make. You only deliver colors and shapes that the great postman of creation entrusts you to carry.” But those are just words until you put them into practice.

We’ve visited this woods hundreds, probably thousands of times. Often, as we visit it, we chat with each other, or explore nooks and crannies with the grandchildren, or use it as a path to the next thing as we take a brisk walk. But today, because I was open, I saw things I’d never seen before. Perhaps it takes a time like this, when everything comes together, including my willingness to listen and see and wonder.

I wonder how many other times I missed seeing the deep holes and torn strips of bark that showed signs of animal excavations in trees and stumps.

I wonder why I didn’t notice the old dead tree, still standing, riddled with a filigree of holes through which the sky shone.

Why had I not noticed before the many trees that had been “topped” by parks department arborists because they posed a danger to walkers; these topless trees were now 30-40 foot tall tree stumps that still contributed to the life of the forest.

Now, I was seeing this woods through a woodpecker’s eyes, a wonderful habitat and home that featured dozens of dining rooms

and a grand choice of bedrooms.

 Into this woods every spring would come a new generation of woodpeckers, needing a nest and food. In the grand plan of things, the woodpecker was tearing apart the old trees bit by bit, and as they disintegrated, they became nurseries for insects which in turn became food for other animals, and eventually warm nurturing places for new trees to begin the next cycle. The tiny saplings would grow up to be homes for more animals, insects and birds.

And I was privileged, for that short half hour, to be witness to the grand connections of all things living, myself included. It was a message to me: “Look! Listen! Know that you are a tiny piece in this great big beautiful puzzle, connected to a greater whole.” You are guardian, protector, benefactor and recipient of all that these wild and natural places have to offer.

“We all have within us,” writes Philip Simmons, “this...ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that though our lives are fleeting and transitory, we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging.” Unfortunately, because we’re busy with so many important things, we miss the opportunity to break those bonds of ordinary awareness.

And so I wonder: what other messages has the great postman of creation tried to deliver to me, and I, with eyes and ears closed, just wasn’t at home to receive them?

Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life (Bantam Books: 2000, 2003), 152.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful meditation on nature and soul. Thank you, Jessie.