Finding God

A familiar face, long and narrow, levitates in the corner between tiles. Thin legs and arms drawn close, protective of her slender body. I’ve seen her here for weeks now, shielded her from downpour, and guided her to safety.

I bend to pump soap into my wet, warm hand. With my face nearer hers, I say, “hello, dear,” because she’s waving her arm at me. I reach my index finger to her and she stops waving to reach back to me. For a moment, she and I are like God and man on Michelangelo’s ceiling.

The next day, I look but cannot find the familiar face.

Efflorescence

Shifting, bending, building her heart

Exhaling incense, honoring grace.

When efflorescence comes to Lavender’s branch,

She bows her head in devotion.

With warm fingertips, the benevolent sun

Lifts Lavender’s chin and says —

It’s your divine purpose to fully express the depths of our soul.

Passing life through bees,

Scattering seeds like words to the wind

For Gaia to choose

How she will live forever.

Death Becoming

Musty perfume rises from sage and transformation

My boot squishes red earth

Mycelium parade on storm-felled branches

Their fabric assimilates my own

Harmony in exchange

Balance in giving

Crochet lichen wave to me from leafless branches

Unified in rhythmic pulse

Ferns reach, offering bright hands after pulling back in fall

Death becoming life never dies.

I Carry Him

I carry him on my back uphill. A broken pelvis, healed without intervention, disabled his body long before he was mine. Cool green manzanita leaves and prickly pine needles shake off their snow like birds in a bath. Beside them, I march; enjoying each boulder, each seed-bearing cone, each sage brush adorning snow. I slouch under dull pain in my shoulders. I had thought for years to train for backpacking, but never enough to start — until this disabled body showed up wanting the adventure as much as I. 

Behind gauzy clouds, the sun moves through a sky that morphs from bright to dark almost without warning. I check my watch. We’ve arrived at nowhere-in-particular and must return downhill. I relinquish my body from the backpack, careful not to tip him. 

His feet, wrapped in miniature booties, make miniature crunches on the snow-turned-ice. Perfectly timed to my pattering heart, evermore delighted with each mini-crunch. His steps a staccato. My strides: the baseline. Sloshing where snow and earth made mud. In one bright streak — a comet’s trail — still water reflects the sun that warms our backs, both covered in fleece. He looks back at me, checking on me, flashing his wide, toothless smile.

When I wonder too long, his mystery past roots sadness in my heart to guess. The only certainty: a guardian angel plucked him from death row. And here we are now, his steps and mine, crunching ice in booties and boots. Living our destiny.  

Rock Creek Wisdom

I recently purchased Hank Meal’s, The River, a local’s guide to hiking trails surrounding the Yuba River. On a rainy afternoon, my friend, Kitten, and I got cabin fever; we opened Hank’s book and chose the Rock Creek Nature Trail (located in the Tahoe National Forest) as our tonic. Once the site of a lumber mill, Hank described this one-mile loop as an easy and accessible trail that meanders beneath 11 varieties of trees and alongside Rock Creek.

“Looks like we have the place to ourselves,” I beamed when we pulled into the empty parking lot.

The ground was completely saturated — water pooled around our every footstep. Light rain floated to earth, accompanied by large, sporadic drops falling from tree branches, tapping an intricate percussion on land and water. The creek rushed past us, beckoning us onwards.

“Look at all this debris,” Kitten said. “These recent storms have been brutal!” 

“The other day, I saw a group prayer going around Facebook asking for the storms to be gentle on the forests, and I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“Why?”

“California needs water. I’m not eager to pray the rain stops.”

A stream carved its way down the hillside and onto the path, turning the path into a waterway and making us walk along its edge. Branches, leaves, and pine needles littered the area, and the Rock Creek Trail felt less like a nature walk and more like a rugged adventure, like we were the first explorers. At one point, we had to climb over a large, fallen tree.

“All this damage is from the drought,” Kitten said. “Tree roots retract closer to the trunk and become less dense. And the branches die. So when a big storm hits, it uproots trees and branches fall.”

“Makes sense.”

“Now I bet this will be a tinderbox in summer — this and every other forest in California.”

“Let’s hope not! If we get enough rain, the dead stuff will get mushy and become fertile. With fewer trees and branches blocking out the sun, new life will grow. Regeneration is one of the most incredible aspects of nature, in my opinion. Didn’t the guidebook say this land was harvested for timber not long ago? I wonder what that looked like!”

“I hope we get the rain, too, of course. Shame if it burns. I’d rather see the land heal.”

“Did you know illegal campfires start a lot, if not most, of California’s forest fires? The drought makes everything dry, but it’s singular humans messing up on top of that.”

“Hitting Nature from both sides: the macro and the micro.” 

We passed what Hank described as a relaxing welcome bench, knocked out of the ground and thrown on its back.

“I’m ready for all humans to live in harmony with Nature.”

“Now that’s a good prayer.”

We stopped to inspect a fallen tree. It made a sturdy bridge over the creek and it’s roots were exposed in an unchanged unit, still holding rocks they had grown around.

“This makes me think of my inner work,” I said, ducking beneath a branch.

“What do you mean?” Kitten asked.

“Self-reflection can sometimes hurt. After a long period of unconsciousness or trauma, like a drought, the medicine of awareness can feel destructive — it’s painful to look on all aspects of myself — lessons can be hard, truth can hurt. Guilt, disappointment, shame, and anger surface. And when that happens, it feels like I’m being destroyed. Like my guts are being ripped out or my heart torn apart.”

Water cascaded down the creek bed over rocks and debris, navigating curves, eddies and pools.

“I think the commitment,” I continued, “is to give myself sustained compassion, like rain, so that which has been knocked over can become the fertile grounds for new life — or a bridge to enlightenment. To continually give myself compassionate attention and embrace myself instead of pushing myself away — that is the way.”

“I see. If you have the painful, seemingly-destructive insight and you don’t follow it up with compassion, it’ll catch on fire and consume you when someone starts an illegal fire,” Kitten said.

“Definitely.”

We crossed a wooden bridge before we completed the loop. Birds sang from the moss-covered trees, while a soft and steady drizzle, almost a mist, enveloped the forest.