Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Walk in sun-dappled woods bestows sense of inner peace
Sitting in my easy chair, watching rain beat against the window panes, I fondly recalled another late summer's day of walking through a wooded glen.
All was softness under foot, leaf mold and mosses cradled each step. Knowing that this fragile path would not last long if used by many, one can comprehend the motivation for constructing a firmer course. But not here in the woods.
Although the woods were darkened on this sun-drenched day, I became conscious of what light there was to show my way. Looking up, atop the forest canopy, the sun's direct rays were a harsh, near-blinding light. Greatly diminished, the light that reached the forest floor had been delicately filtered thorough a thousand leaves. Ahead were patches of brightness encircled by dark shadowy places. I recalled the colors of those light-scraps. They changed from white to yellow, then to a darkened tan. Now the forest's dominant color was green even though it had become refashioned into many shades, some somber, some vivid. It was the leaves themselves that had rent asunder green's primary colors of yellow and blue. The green appeared not to object to the survival of yellow with its myriad of variations, for it flourished beneath it. Some of the blue in the sky wrenched itself free, escaped, and reassigned itself to the woods, there to join with the dark shadows.
In the forest, to me, change appears common. Yet, if so, I ponder if anything really does change. I must confess that the different color-hues I remember were those imaged upon my memory. Another, though, could see them differently. Probably the answer lies as simply a difference between two individuals interpreting how light strikes an object. If two were standing in a forest viewing wet leaves beneath a pool of light, one may see a patch of gold, the other a plot of white.
The harshness of the light's beginning, high above the trees, found itself melded into softness as it came to rest below, upon the leaf mold. On the ground, the sun's energy was changed from light to life. And that light nurtures growth on the forest floor to make it become exotically beautiful!
As I walk and observe, my attention becomes entangled with some nearby fluttering leaves. A soft, warm breeze had set them in motion. Further on, within a small light-filled opening, a greater wind arose and bowed down a fully-leafed white birch tree just far enough to clearly expose what once I thought to be a shadow. It moved slightly. Eyes adjusted, a sleeping fawn was exposed. It had been well-hidden by its mother, a white-tailed doe so that she could browse a short distance from her newborn young. After the strong wind subsided, the birch regained its full height, and once again hid the fawn who remained fast asleep.
Further on, I stopped again to look at a curled up fern frond waiting to be released for the season by the unseen hand of Mother Nature. Another step. Suddenly a wood mouse, who believed it was well hidden by its shadow cover, jumped up, wildly bounced about, and abruptly made a successful escape.
As I approached our north-boundary wall, I selected what looked to be a comfortable spot and sat. I enjoy sitting quietly, continuing to look about, always hoping to see a wildflower.
In early spring my favorite place is close to a rushing brook where painted or red trilliums join nearby Jack-in-the-pulpits as their year begins. A short time later an array of wild ginger can be found higher up the brook. This plant has a most intriguing cup-shaped bloom place in the crotch between two large, heart-shaped leaf stalks at ground level.
Others of my favorite wildflowers include: the New Hampshire state wildflower, the moccasin flower (pink lady slipper), the fringed polygala (aka "bird on the wing" and "gay wings"), the spectacular cardinal flower that can be found in a brook or a not-too-deep place in a slow-moving river. For me, the wildflower season winds up when the blooms of the fall asters are covered with snow.
On a rare occasion I have heard the sounds of honey bees while walking through the hardwoods. The sounds indicate that, this being not too far from where hives of bees are kept to pollinate an orchard or a large vegetable operation, they have become "wild bees," having escaped from a commercial bee keeper and moved into an old or perhaps dying tree to set up housekeeping anew. It could be said that they are now free to gather nectar from the wild oat instead of the tame oat.
There is a sense of inner peace sitting on a stone wall or walking through woods. And an equal sentiment is aroused when one's memory recalls such a walk. (In time, it is always possible that one remembered walk may become a bit jumbled with the others).
Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey, 03446.