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If you want more than to brush your face
against nature, eyes clinging briefly to swatches
of sky, their blues deepening as you watch,
hit-and-missing leaves, damp paintings
patched seamless together—if you want more
than the quick epiphany of a hill line
breaking free of houses, you have to
walk the same route each day.
 
To know a second before the way a view
opens like a fan and close perspective crumbles,
to acquire a memory of verges and stones
where a snake may pour over your foot,
or a spray of butterflies playing chest-high,
engulf you at a sudden turn;
 
to feel circling through you, sequence:
how the small yellow, freckles as the common
orchid, cedes to blue-and-zebra, and both precede
the black, primadonna rare, big as a bat—
to know this cycle better than you know
your neighbour, you have to walk
the route each day.
 
To feel each missed occasion as a lover’s absence
short-changing the body: pumps, pulleys,
mainspring linked to the fragile, falling chemistry
of your spirits; to read the sharp calligraphy
of birds carved on the air, to ambush
nature into telling, you need to stay
in one place for more than a year.
 
–“The Route” by Diana Bridge
 

I have been living in the same place for almost a year now.  I have been walking the same trails with the dogs, watching the same trees stand and sway in the western winds, and listening to the same space liven each morning then quiet each evening.  A place, though it moves slowly, is never still, and now, after a year, I learn that a place will only open itself as much as I am willing to open myself.

On Friday I follow the sound of croaking to the edge of a cliff overlooking a marshy pond and sit cross-legged on thick moss.  Below I see all shades of yellow and green.  I see frogs swimming as ripples of water.  Their persistent cacophony is so bouncy–CROAK crOAK CRoaK!–I can almost feel the vibrations up on my perch.

Then sudden silence.

A crow’s shadow sweeps across the pond.  I hold my breath.

One croak.  Another, and then another in response, and soon the air is busy again.

I keep walking and find a campsite tucked between the pasture and rock walls: a faded green picnic table, a handmade square brick oven, a metal lantern with a half-burnt candle inside.  It is only minutes away from the yurt, but until today I did not take this trail, I did not look at the precise angle through the trees, until today I did not see it, though I passed so close for a year.

Just beyond the campsite a maple grows out of two boulders, the trunk so old it looks as though it has melted and reformed, becoming a rock itself, and I pause just long enough to distinguish trunk from stone, then continue out to the pasture and trace the edge of forest and field all the way home.

That same day I find maple flowers blooming on fallen trees, such fierce delicacy living without knowing the roots were pulled up in late autumn winds, and I ask how much do we really need to know in order to persist?

Air, water, and the inventions of each season: we can all live with this.

So I move with the land, shedding my sweaters as the ground sheds snow and tying my hair up off my neck as leaves spread and reach up toward the sun.  I keep my eyes open for the new and ancient details each season brings, and when the season changes I start all over again, looking for the first time.