The feathers of a sparrow drift down like snow out of a sky made bluer by yellow leaves and white clouds. A victim of a Cooper’s hawk. Life seeking and reducing everything to amino acids. The Junko is oblivious. The energy of the sparrow will power the hawk for a while.

I am sitting in a glade wrapped in my sleeping bag just above Lake Superior. Last night a high pressure cell moved through with strong winds and knocked down trees. That’s the way glades form. Old trees are weakened by the wind and snow. One falls and snow collects in the eddies of others, weighing them down until they too break. The area is first reclaimed by grasses, until new trees, encouraged by fresh light, take seed and grow.

Today is bright. The air a light breeze. I’ve turned my cell phone off. But there’s that tendency to want to look at it every minute, but the feeling goes away after about an hour.

Overhead, I hear the soft wissh, wissh, wissh of a raven’s wings, and then they are gone. One doesn’t have to see to understand. The rhythm of the wing beats reveals the speed of the bird, and the speed reveals the species. Their croaks are timed with their breathing and their breathing is timed with the beat of their wings. Geese and Sandhill Cranes are different. So are the Peregrine and the American Kestrel.

Across the glade I watch poplar leaves quaking in the breeze turning silver and yellow against the lake beyond. Next to the poplar is an orange maple. Next to the maple, a green balsam. The maple is waving gently, and the balsam just barely rocks. All different responses to the breeze. The poplar leaves are attached to their stems at a right angle and this causes them to quake in the wind. It’s an adaptive mechanism that keeps them from losing leaves in high wind areas like the ridge above the lake. The maple, I don’t quite understand. Is there a selective advantage to swaying or turning orange and not yellow? Yet I see needles of the balsam curve inward toward the upper boughs of the tree. Is this so light reaches the branches below?

Chickadees sing a ‘fee bee’ song and nuthatches answer with a ‘waank.’ A red squirrel practices acrobatics. I do not understand the world any more than we are all just passing through. It might be easy to say that one side won and another lost. The Cooper’s Hawk and the sparrow. A zero sum game. We use the fang and the club to justify our primitive instincts. Survival of the fittest.

But humans are different. We have the capacity for empathy and cooperation as well. It’s reflected in our common decency and respect for others. This is where our destiny lies. Otherwise we are likely to pass from this earth as a species, much less continue as a democracy. We need to rely on each other.

High above, almost to the edge of the clouds, I see a pair of bald eagles circling. I try to imagine being there with them. What do they see? Are they cold? They are coordinating their hunt. Now I am gliding and riding the currents. I take a slow deep breath of the cold clean air.

Sitting in this glade and just observing makes a good day. My way of adding a few amino acids to my soul.

‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™


L. Hobart Stocking
Facebook: @SkyWaterEarthConnected
Twitter: @SkyWaterEarth