Friday, March 03, 2006

Thin Places

A Lizard Laying Low

Michael was so very tired. The exhaustion registered in his lean muscled body in several vague ways. He knew however that it was not his body that was the problem. When he could motivate himself to just get started he could work for hours non-stop and not be any more or less tired than when he began.

This weariness had plagued him for too long. He had tried all sorts of solutions and distractions to alleviate the problem. Many worked temporarily but the tiredness always came back as soon as the normal routine of his life held sway. He could no longer avoid the fact that it came from deep within his soul. Michael’s spirit called out in anguish. It was time to make a decision.

He had no particular place in mind when he left the house. He just planned to drive and listen for which stream valley might call to him. This abandonment of his routine, which also meant abandoning his responsibilities, was an act of desperation. He was afraid that very soon he would say or do something he may regret. Nature which had always been his muse kept taunting him and it was time for a long chat between the two of them.

Michael came to rest under the branches of a massive Koa tree. The dappled light it created danced and played with the stream he had followed up the mountain. A grouping of large flat boulders was nestled near the trunk of the tree about ten feet from the edge of the stream. A small waterfall was just upstream. Michael sat down here when he was told to.

Did he need to explain what his dilemma was? The essence of this sheltered haven spoke directly to the problem. It was untouched by the hand of man yet it was perfect in every way. The ease with which he rested here and the quiet it brought to his mind was the lure that had drawn him into gardening and landscape design as a career. Plants talked in quiet humble voices that stretched over eons and his mind heard this better than the demands of human sound. He had wanted to spend his life creating and sharing that feeling with others, to show them the gift he had some how been given intuitively.

Time and other large forces had caused the opposite effect and the connection to nature that held much of Michael’s sanity was being stolen from him. He worked for people that had no time. Their gardens were no more alive than their living rooms. They needed to be scrubbed clean and sanitized and the plants were just objects that were allotted this amount of space, no more and no less. There was no time for things to grow. No seasons were allowed. Each piece of the display had to instantly fill the intended purpose. Nature and the garden had become another commodity and money was supposed to buy you exactly what you wanted on demand. The garden had become a display of status and position and no longer represented a person’s connection to the natural world.

Nature was not so easily convinced of these notions and the battle to bend nature to a consumer mentality tore at the fabric of Michael’s being. His spirit was running on empty and it cried out for help. Michael was just as trapped by his culture as his clients and he could not afford to just fire them all and tend to his own garden where the voice and the will of nature had a much stronger role to play.

He had reached that boiling point again and decided it was best to get in his truck and drive away before some lasting damage was done. He surveyed the natural garden where he had come to rest, trying to quiet his mind, to be able to hear or to feel what he must do. His eye moved smoothly over this scene. Nothing tugged at him to be the center of attention. There were dozens of variations of the colors green and brown and a hint of some yellow, but no blazing displays of color that were demanded and bought for the tropical landscapes he planted. Some neighborhoods had become so overwrought with color they had begun to take on a freakish appearance and you could expect Michael Jackson perhaps to live inside one of these Hollywood set designs that posed as homes. The color green was passé. Red was the new black for gardens.

Under the Koa tree all was quiet. The few flowers he could spot were subdued, only wanting to be noticed by the proper guest. Closer to the base of the tree in the deeper shade, between the large flat rocks where he sat and the tree trunk, the ground was carpeted by the fallen leaves of several plant species. Very little green showed in this carpet of many colors of brown. He looked at the different shapes and sizes of the fallen leaves that had banded together to protect the grey-brown soil.

Then Michael’s eye was drawn like a magnet to one very tiny spec of green in this sea of browns. He looked closer and saw the tiniest of seedling sprouts. He looked closer again and saw that a tiny seedling had sprouted on a small chunk of wood. He reached for the little piece of wood, picked it up gently and placed it in the palm of his hand.

Staring at the miniature scene he held in his hand he was transported back in time and back to his own garden a decade ago. He had held this same piece of bark with its inhabitant once before. After a long day of work he went to sit in the bench under the avocado tree where he could relax and watch the garden and watch the sun set in the western sky. A tiny piece of bark in the mulched bed with a little sprouted seedling called out to him on that day too.

He had picked it up to look closely at this world in miniature. With a reverence he peered inside this hidden world and saw that not only was there a tiny seedling growing from the wood chip but an even tinier beetle with a high round back was crawling across the surface. It felt like he was holding the entire planet in the palm of his hand. He felt tiny and large at the same time and contemplated his own place in the scheme of things.

Now here it was again a decade later this same tiny sprout on a piece of wood cupped in his hand. When the tiny beetle with the high round back crawled into view from under the chunk of bark a shiver ran through his body. The portal of time opened again and Michael looked into the future. The seedling had become a vigorous young Ohia tree but it was growing fifty feet further up the stream from where he was now gazing through this thin place in the fabric of the universe.

The little seedling was telling him that it needed more sun to grow and would like to be moved from underneath the great Koa tree. Again Michael did as he was told and hiked up the stream and found a more open spot away from the bank of the stream. He scooped out a shallow depression and placed the wood chip with its burgeoning life gently into contact with the soil. He remembered the last time he held this miniature world in his hand when the moment had passed and it was just a piece of wood again. He had thought to just fling it into the garden and be done with it but instead out of respect he placed it back where he had found it, unable to act as if that contact had not been made or that it meant nothing.

Michael returned to the shade of the Koa tree and the boulders beneath but did not stop to stay. He had heard what he came for. It was also time for him to move from the shadows of all the trees he had planted in the past and find some new light to grow in. The path he was on was taking him in that direction. He had already reduced the gardens he tended for others by half and he should continue with that plan. He too needed to give time its due in the course of this process of growth, but it was also important that he keep striving to reach some new light.

Dedicated to Wellspring


Mike L. said...

Wow. That was a great story, very well written. I could imagine being out in Nature and feeling refreshed. Of course I also see it as a part of your story, and hope you do get a chance to listen to Nature for guidance.
Thanks for posting your story.

Charlie N. said...

Christopher....I am very impressed. I enjoyed your "Thin Places" very much. I will take some time and look over the have wet my appetite. You are multi-talented...

deb said...

Thank you. I, too, needed the restfulness reached by sitting under the Koa tree and finding new life. The dappled light filtering through the trees, the stream with little waterfalls. What a beautiful picture you paint with words.