The Lucky Ones

[First published in 2017 as “The Cows of Black Rock City,” this edition will appear along with many unpublished stories in a collection of shorts for Varanasi Sage — Due out in July!]

Twinkling lights strung around its frame, chain clicking in a dry loop, my bike created tracks on tracks in the dust, crossing tracks without pattern or reason.

In the dark of night, the high desert mirrors the sky; although the stars on the ground are colored, moving and spinning, dancing chaotically. In the dark expanse, we put on our lights and become technicolor shooting stars.

By week’s end, the thin layer of dust on my bike will gather to look as though it had been left forgotten in the recesses of a workman’s garage. Dust on my clothes, my skin and my hair, in my nose, ears and lungs. By week’s end, I, too, caked with dust, will look old and forgotten.

A herd of cows appears. Dim lights twinkle from their insides, differentiating them from the dust and darkness. Stationary, unafraid, wooden skeletons wrapped in translucent nylon. 

In the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art, these are the lucky ones. Peaceful bovines, sacred cows, abundant goddesses of nourishment.  Their twinkling lights, the same as my own; viewing passing delights. Busses dressed like sheep and lighthouses, cars like genie lamps, golf cart abstract art, and bodies radically expressing themselves.

Our shared reality outside this city — the distortion of divine nature, the degradation of life by human command. Here they are not an exploitable object; a living, feeling being trapped in a pit of manure, in line for a violent death, never having eaten a blade of grass or stepped hoof in a meadow. I am a lucky one, in the darkness of the playa, amongst dust and art; not trapped in a war torn city, used as a human shield.

The sadness of contrast, a melancholy inspection, thoughts and emotions rising from the depths of another’s creation. Here in the dust — in the middle of nowhere — surrounded by darkness and lights.

69pAXiRXQS+FZoc0g2yLWw_thumb_2dd.jpg
Phuture Pasture by David Suckling for Burning Man 2017

Forest Song

[This story will appear in a collection of shorts for Varanasi Sage, due out July 1, 2019.]

I opened the door, welcomed by early morning light peeking around clouds, caressing the world. Unseen doves proclaimed the day’s arrival in trilling coos. Oaks stretched in wild formations. Brown grasses stood defiantly against their drought deaths. The distant scent of a wood-burning stove — a reminder of recent wildfires that stopped at the next ridge. Deer tracks in the dust said I was not the only one who walked the trail.

They carried a flash, a remembering from my youth, making eye contact with a doe. She led me past trees, through ferns and ivy to her fawn, chestnut with white spots, nestled in the grass. Vulnerable. The doe watched as I knelt beside her baby, as I touched its tiny head, unaware of the danger to its fragile life. 

Through oak trees, lichen drooped long from their branches, the filtered sun created irregular, glowing shapes on the forest floor. Branches and leaves formed a tapestry of life, thick with energy, magnifying their essence and intensity. I was just one small organism in the network of life.  An enormous oak whose wide-spread branches twisted and turned, defied all patterns and rules. I approached the grand dame in awe of her divine, ancient presence, and when I moved under her furthest reach, the forest suddenly went silent.

A covey of quail (dressed in fancy spots, stripes and bobbling headpieces) whistled as they ran on speeding legs. A crinkling — Towhee kicking up leaves, flying in unison on purring wings when I approached. Acorn Woodpeckers squawked, perched on tree trunks — wearing tuxedos and red caps — drilling holes, stuffing them. Their gleeful chucking like happiness on the wind. I passed a giant oak, split at it’s lowest, thickest branch — down the middle. The top half on the ground, the trunk standing a jagged obelisk, rotted at the split.

Around a bend, a rhythmic cascade, almost like dropping water. I stopped to listen, but couldn’t make out the sound.

Slowly and quietly I walked, listening without seeing the source. At the crest, down the shaded hill, 5 or 6 deer chased each other, leaping between trees. They moved in s-curves, criss-crossing, creating figure eights with narrow hooves, playing like children in the forest. Nearer and nearer, they were so absorbed in their chase they didn’t notice me. Closer and closer, astonished by the sight, as close as I could get on the trail.

Overzealous, I stepped off the path and my human feet crunched leaves. Without showing signs of seeing me, they bounded away in perfect time through the meadow. At the edge of the forest, an antlered male turned back to look at me — knowing me, beckoning me on. 

On the other side of the meadow, the deer had left no trace.

A thick oak with a large horizontal branch, an arm reaching, pulled me off the trail. I hoisted myself up, stretched my legs and reclined back. Cradled in her arm, I gazed past the canopy to the sky. Rustling, fluttering, croaking, squeaking, laughing, whistling, chattering, calling. Each voice joined in one abundant song.

I could have lounged for hours, held by the tree and listening; yet, the forest did not sing for me. Symphonies without need for an audience. A true artist: creating for herself. 

“Show me the way,” I whispered. “How can I create like you?”

Close your eyes.

Moments passed, my ears opened to subtle layers of the song. Singers unashamed of their sound they received at birth. Each day a new score created without doubt or self-consciousness. Each voice accepted exactly as it was — knowing it had a welcomed part.

Burning Intentions 2018

It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.

This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.

I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.

My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.

May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!

Our Eyes Meet

We cross into Reservation land in Northern Arizona. The desert before us, a desolate beauty with colorful streaks, glows beneath the pink hue of the setting sun.

On the outskirts of town the highway curves past hills. Gathered at their base, shanties and shacks form small a small line. Broken boards, torn roofs, tires, cars and trucks appear abandoned and disregarded. But I see there are children’s toys and someone walking into a shack and others sitting on steps and chairs out front.

We pass at 60 miles per hour. The extreme poverty fades into the rear-view mirror.

We stop at a gas station just after dusk. A man walks to the car parked next to me. He is, perhaps, ten years older than me. Our eyes meet on opposite sides of the window. A thought flashes into my mind — were his parents or grandparents among the stolen children, forced into Christian boarding schools in an attempt to decimate their culture?

The lineage of oppressors claim me as their citizen.

***

Early in the morning, a jewelry maker sits in a long line of artisans in Santa Fe’s town square; they’ve rolled out their wares and tell the tourists passing by, “feel free to handle.” The jewelry maker looks like he is sleeping, with eyes closed and arms folded around the large yellow “G” on his green sweatshirt. His porcupine quill jewelry has caught my eye, and I kneel down to look.

Amongst his jewelry, I find a feather pendant that is perfect for my niece.

“Excuse me,” I say.

His eyes open.

“Sorry to bother you.”

“No bother,” he smiles.

“How much is this one?”

He tells me the price. I say I’d like to purchase it and hand it to him.

An older white man stands above us and jokes that he would never buy from a Packers fan. “At least you’re not for the Cowboy’s,” the older man says as he continues down the block.

“Never a Cowboy’s fan,” the artisan jokes back as he places the necklace on a card, carefully stringing the chain through notches that will hold it in place. “Although my mother is probably smacking me right now for saying that.”

But the older man is too far to hear him.

“Your mother likes the Cowboys?” I ask, still kneeling, admiring the porcupine quills dangling from silver earrings.

“Oh yes,” he said. “All her life. Now she has passed and I’m sure she is angry with me for saying anything bad about them.”

Our eyes meet.

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom. I can only imagine what that feels like.”

He sighs. “She died on the fourth of July. It’s what she wanted. She was on dialysis for twelve years. My sisters convinced her to get the treatments when she first got sick. After twelve years she was tired. Every time she came home she was like this —” he rolled his eyes back, put his arms out, and swayed his chest like he was off-balance.

“That’s a long time to endure so much pain.”

“Yes, I understand her choice,” he says. He holds the little package containing the necklace in his right hand.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I say, looking up at him.

“I miss her. I think I will miss her for the rest of my life.”

I take in what he has said. “I miss my Gramma more now than I did two years ago when she passed.”

He nods and I ask about the porcupine quills.

IMG_6286

Unmasking the Monuments

We drove in after dark. Large shadows, looming in the night like masked phantoms, lay in wait.

Half an hour before first light, wind shook the camper van. Rain urged us to stay under covers with tinny percussions. But we had come with one purpose: to witness dawn unmask the monuments.

I put on my warmest clothes with a sense of defeat and doubt. We wouldn’t have much of a sunrise in a storm.

When I stepped outside, as if on cue, the rain eased to a drizzle, merging the space between earth and sky, wrapping us in mist. Lightning flashed in the distance — dancing in bold streaks — thunder clapped to proclaim the illumination.

I sat patiently for the show. At first she was only a fleck below the clouds, but soon, a sliver of pinkish orange light at the horizon split the sky.

Black against the night sky, the monuments began to emerge, to take clearer shape, to reveal their red rock, to show they surround us near and far, to claim their land. Castles, cathedrals, ancient architecture shaped by the Artist’s hand, etched and chiseled into towers, walls, cliffs, and colorful layers.

When dawn captured the sky, we stepped through red sand in the direction of the three closest monuments, the only ones on the early morning trail. The smell of rain rose from the earth, but it was dry and quiet. Passing clouds, their softness, an ever-changing background, emphasized the stoic rocks.

Walking below, standing at their feet, staring up at their grandeur, I felt the knowing of the One far greater than I. Ancient energy, with the power to lift its own monuments and hold them in its hand as if to say, “This — is my Creation.”

Rain continued its pilgrimage to earth as we finished the trail. I looked to the monuments, a rainbow appeared momentarily, as if to say, “So are You.”

IMG_5607

Canyon Meditation

We chose not to look at the map and found what we believed was a path. As we walked, the forest seemed to hold us while birds sang its melody. We passed elk tracks preserved in dry mud and saw a tree that had been used as an antler scratching post. I wished I could walk without knowing our destination.

Upon hearing human voices speaking languages from all over the world, we knew we were close — and suddenly — the forest opened.

A magnetic pull from my heart led me to the canyon rim as though I were under enchantment. My body shook with adrenaline. Before me, a chasm ripped the earth and rocky, layered peaks formed colorful monuments, temples, pyramids, and fortresses. Spires and pillars rose from the ground like giants. Greater and larger than Stonehenge, than Chichen Itza, than man could ever be.

Nature’s chisel wielded by the Great Artist etched walls with shadowy crags and adornement. Creation coalescing into wonder from nearly two billion years of both violent and gradual evolution written in the rock. Lava and mud spreading and widening the canyon carved by wind and water, plateaus rising, glaciers melting, the continent crashing into volcanoes and making mountains. Erosion — pushing, pulling, forming megaliths and smiles that become wings of expanded freedom. A testament to my limited, human experience.

The river deepens the canyon as she moves to the sea — her former grandeur evidenced in decorated cliffs — she is now a mere trickle of what she must have been before dams and reservoirs closed her veins like tourniquets.

The Artist exhibits the freedom to transform, to shift — to evolve into beauty, into living inspiration.

Even with their loud voices, the other tourists don’t bother me. The vastness is large enough for us all. So large that I sense I can give all the heaviness of my heart to the canyon. All the pain of memories and attachments can release. And my heart will become expansive; my heart and the canyon will merge into one, magnetized like the continent and crashing into volcanoes. If I let it fall, it will tumble into the river and be swept away to the ocean. I can let it go — I can give it all to the One who is capable of transfiguration.

I hear the wind before I feel her. She comes up from the canyon depths and brushes my face. I feel the coolness of her touch. She is a whispering echo saying, “hush.”

Crows fly with feathers straight and light in the space between earth and sky. Above the canyon, below stars. Small, yet fearless. As we must be.

IMG_5645

The Inside Joke

After a full day building camp, several friends formed a group to go out. Of course I wanted to join! I grabbed my necessities (headlamp, toilet paper, goggles, emergency champagne) and hopped on my bike. As we turned onto the esplanade, art installations rose from the dust as far as I could see. I lagged to catch glimpses of them as we passed. Art or friends? Art or friends? Curiosity pulled at me. 
And then — we approached a pier. 
Group mission be damned! This was the emptiest the playa would be for the rest of the week, and soon the pier would be crammed with tourists.
I stopped and put my feet onto the dust. I pulled the scarf off my mouth and called to my friends: “Guys! I’m stopping to look at art!” Either they didn’t hear me or didn’t care.
Except for Kitten, my faithful companion.
“I can’t keep passing art installations. It’s our first night out,” I looked towards our group; they had already blended in with the other blinking lights.
“We have all week to find music, but we only have a week to look at art,” Kitten dismounted his bike.
We stepped onto the pier. Nets and ropes hung between posts, hammocks swayed beneath the boardwalk. A long string of lights romanced me. I hooked my arm into Kitten’s.
The boards creaked under our footsteps — just like the old boardwalks I’ve wandered along in seaside towns. And for a moment, when I relaxed my eyes and looked up, it felt like we were at the sea. But looking down, seeing the dry lake bed below us, I thought of the sheer genius and manpower it must have taken to build this dock — from the concept to the design to bringing the materials and assembling them in the middle of nowhere without basic amenities like running water. 
We arrived at the midway tower. We leaned in to view its inner intricacies. Some people were gathered on the upper level; I’d be willing to bet they were drinking whiskey.
“Want to go up?” Kitten asked.
“Not particularly.” I felt content looking inside the tower at the details that made it seem more like a relic than a modern piece of art. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I knew only in turn-of-the-century novels. Antique photographs, compasses, hourglasses, bound books, and glass bottles — in all colors, sizes and shapes — the scene piqued my curiosity to touch and pick up the items. Every detail existed for exploration, a mystery to be revealed, a reverie in which to lose oneself. It was a living, breathing piece of art that transported us to a different time and place. The curiosity, the wonder of it all, put me back into the frame of mind of a child: everything was new and strange and deeply interesting.
On the other side of the tower, we found an antique desk — the kind in which the door to the main compartment folds down to become the writing surface. My literary heart skipped a beat. 
“And what could be inside?” My curiosity whispered with glee. 
When I opened it, I found the cubbies, that once may have organized papers and mail, were filled with antique glass bottles. How odd. I touched a few, pulling them out of the compartments and examining their details, trying to understand their riddle. And then — I found one that contained a piece of paper.
“A message in a bottle!” I gasped. I lifted it with awe. The bottle’s long, skinny neck was jagged at the top. “What kind of message do you think it is? Profound wisdom?” 
Kitten shrugged.
I slowly put my index finger into the bottle, careful not to touch the toothlike edge, but my fingertip barely reached the paper. I pushed in a little more until the base of my finger rested against the pointed teeth. I could only move the paper around in circles along the side of the bottle. The shape of the neck made it impossible to drag the paper out.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Kitten warned. “We are in the middle of nowhere and it’s dirty. You’ll want a working hand for the rest of the week.”
I sighed and pulled my finger out. “I’m just too curious.” I turned the bottle over and around, trying to see if I could read the message from the outside, but the paper was folded in half. Even more mysterious. I inverted the bottle and shook it, but the paper wouldn’t fall out.
“Oh well, let’s go,” Kitten said. “Slicing your finger is a bad way to start your Burn.”
“Let me try one more thing.”
I held the bottle so the paper was at the very base of the neck. I put my finger back in and pressed the paper firmly against the glass. It slid along the edge, I almost got it passed the base of the neck, but it slipped back. 
“Leave it, come on, there’s a lot more to look at,” Kitten said. “There’s bottles everywhere. Just look at all these bottles over here.” He motioned to a couple of antique suitcases behind us with bottles on top of them.
 “I have to know what it says!” I insisted. “I can’t just find a message in a bottle in a desk on the dock in the middle of the desert and just — walk away without knowing what it says! A message in a bottle at Burning Man. Who knows what it says? Maybe it’s written by the artist.”
I turned the bottle a little more, got my hand on the side with the shortest teeth and finally — I had the paper sliding up the neck and out of the bottle! I held it in my hand like it was a golden scroll of truth. “Yes!” I said to Kitten, my eyes wild with excitement.
I unfurled the paper and paused. I was hungry for the message I worked so hard to receive, but needed a deep breath. Delayed gratification.
“Come on, open it,” Kitten said.
I opened the paper. 
I read it aloud: “Go Fuck Yourself.”
Kitten and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oh that is good,” I said as I caught my breath.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Kitten smiled.
“A special message from the artist,” I joyfully mocked myself as I folded the message and rolled it back up. “A message just for me! How absurd.” I laughed as I placed the paper back in the bottle, making sure it was all the way in for the next person.“Well worth the effort, I say.”
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Kitten agreed.
I put the bottle back exactly where I found it and closed the desk.
Kitten and I continued our walk along the creaking pier to the very end. I looked out at the playa — illuminated art installations dotted the landscape — and I realized this pier was on an endless sea of wonder.

“The Pier” by Gurps Chawla

Burning Intentions 2017

It’s late and I’m watching the newly-waxing moon set in the west. I’m driving through the mountains, en route to Black Rock City for Burning Man. This will be my third time participating in the art and music festival. 
Last year, I set intentions that mainly focused on my interactions with other people. And although they were extremely elevated, I saw and felt my intentions manifest in some of my experiences.
I’ve been humbled and challenged this past year — especially recently — and my intentions reflect my need for deep nourishment and reflection.
To share our intentions is to empower them. Please read mine below:
I intend to reestablish my relationship with my creativity; to fully engage with the art installations at the festival and allow myself to be inspired and motivated by them. I need to reset my relationship with my creativity in order to create for creation’s sake without the desire to be seen, popular or make money. This will afford me the freedom I need in my artistic pursuits. I must reconnect with my truth that God’s gift to me is my creativity and my gift back to God is using it.
I intend to be open to receiving the keys I need to enhance my productivity and fulfillment.
I intend to continue the process of letting go of the pain and hurt I hold onto by releasing the people and events from my heart that continue to cause me suffering.
This year, I would like to feel and witness the expansive love that is my true essence, so that I will know who I am.


Photo by Juan P. Zapeda last year at Burning Man.

Sierra Hot Springs

The edge of a summer storm passed overhead breaking the monotony of blue sky. Patches of clouds cast temporary shade as they moved, releasing a misting drizzle, which fell upon us like a celestial blessing. Birds sang the glory of the day.

Stephanie and I relaxed in the large pool. She rested her head against the cement lip and closed her eyes; I faced away to look beyond the deck and view the Sierraville Valley.

People populated reclining chairs, others floated and bobbed in the pool. Stephanie and I were the only ones wearing bathing suits. 

Stephanie hadn’t spoken much since we left the silent dome and the hot pool it contained, but it didn’t bother me. I remembered my first time in the dome and the reverent silence that settled into my heart and mind as I slipped into a profoundly easy meditation facilitated by the heat of the tub, the arhythmic sound of water dripping into the two cold plunges, and the stained glass window — a woman resembling at once the Virgin Mary and Venus de Milo, pouring light into the waters through her outstretched hands. 

I looked to Stephanie; her face, perfectly serene, took on an ancient quality as if her soul had known this place years ago. 

Her visage made me want to rest my head against the cement lip, too, so I turned around. Just as I did, I saw a woman, floating on foam noodles — one under her shoulders, the other under her knees — as if she were in a chair. The woman’s eyes were closed, and like Stephanie, she hadn’t a care in the world. She could not see that her legs, spread in blissful comfort, moved towards the edge of the pool putting her naked groin on a direct trajectory for Stephanie’s face.

I poked Stephanie. She opened her eyes slowly until she realized a woman’s crotch was heading for her. 

With only a few giggles, Stephanie moved out of the way, and broke her silence: “want to check out the meadow pool you were telling me about?”

“Sure!”

We got our towels and walked onto the path. Pine trees filtered the sunlight into complex patterns on the ground.

“I love it here,” Stephanie said.

“Natural beauty and healing waters. What’s not to love?”

“Well,” she emphasized, “there is only so much hoochie coochie in my face that I can take.”

I laughed and then saw two porcelain tubs, just off the trail, nestled in the grass. They each had their own stream of hot water flowing into them from the ground. “Look at these, Steff! Here’s your solution!”

“We have to get in them,” she exclaimed. “How is this real?”

“Real magic,” I said.

We sat for a while, breathing in the novelty of relaxing in a bathtub on a mountainside, but we wanted to sit together and talk, so we continued our quest for the meadow pool. 

“I’m glad we sat in the secret tubs. The secret-not-secret tubs. They’re just right off the path, but they’re easy to miss,” I said.

“Everyone walks by, but not everyone sees,” Stephanie said. “I prefer that kind privacy, like the dome because nobody talks.”

“I was here one night and people were talking in there. I didn’t like that because it affected the depth of my meditation.”

Our feet crunched the path, adding a layer to the birds’ song.

“The big pool was a little extreme for me. I’ve never really been around that much nudity.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.” 

“It was too much at once — naked people almost running into me with their parts. It happened twice. Once was a hoochie coochie and the other was titties.”

“Every time you close your eyes they come for ya, huh?” I joked.

“Seemed like it.”

We passed the white, Victorian Lodge built in 1870. Red poppies brightened the hillside.

“That hot pool, though,” Stephanie said. “It’s hard to explain what I felt. It was like pure energy. I felt a pulse — like a vibration.” 

“Because it’s so hot and the bottom is sand, I close my eyes and lose the feeling of having a body. It’s like my body becomes the water. Must be the closest thing to being in the womb.”

“It did feel like that! And that’s exactly how I felt when we were looking at the grass earlier. I had an out-of-body experience — a supreme oneness, like I was the wind.”

“Wow. Transcendental,” I looked to my left over the wide valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range. “You’re so zen you don’t even need the dome.”

“A lady was crying in there.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“She was standing in one of the cold tubs with her face to the wall when we went in.”

“Oh, did she have her hand on the wall?”

“Yes. The dome felt like a place to…” 

“Open and release?”

“That’s how I felt. Completely safe. It was powerful. Every detail. The tiles, the wood, the stained glass. So natural and peaceful and somehow familiar.”

“I felt a release, too,” I said. “Before we walked in there I was angry about what was going on with work. I was thinking about it a lot.”

“I could tell you were trying not to, but you really were lost in thought.”

“But after going in the hot water and spending time in the dome, I feel like I released everything. Now I’m just kinda…dancing on the inside. Like I’m free.”

“Freedom is dancing on the inside. That could be your new motto,” she said as she looked at the trees who grew above us like guardians. “I like all the moss that’s growing.”

“I love mossy trees. And all the tall, lush grass,” I paused my step. “You know, earlier, when we were looking at the grass?”

“Yeah.”

“I was definitely lost in thought, thinking about that email. And you pointed to look out at the valley and the grass in the wind and there was a blue jay on a branch. That brought me back to the present moment and helped me let go.”

“That was it. ‘Come back. Come back,’ I was saying. I had that moment of oneness, but I knew how you were feeling, so I was like ‘hey, don’t forget to look around you and be here.’”

I breathed deeply, “next time I’m having a bad day I’m just going to come here.”

“Seriously. It’s so important to walk out. I feel the same in a lot of ways. You’re not alone.”

We approached the meadow pool and to our surprise, found we had the space to ourselves. A small tree grew behind boulders at the edge of the meadow. Purple irises bloomed in stately elegance. Flowers and leaves floated on the surface of the clear, blue water; we stepped in like queens. Our toes pressed into the soft, sandy floor.  

“I think I’m in the most beautiful place in the world,” Stephanie whispered.

“We’re in Faerlyland,” I said. “You know you’ve fully arrived in Faeryland when you come to the meadow pool and there’s mint and flowers floating in its waters.” 

“You described it like heaven when we were driving up here. And it really is.”

A wooden totem pole watched over the glistening water, speaking without words of the wildlife and civilization that lived in the valley before it was named Sierraville.  

“I love this aspen tree right here and the way the leaves flutter in the wind,” I said. “It reminds me of a wind chime my grandma had in her backyard. It was made out of thin, round, pearlescent shells. She had a lot of wind chimes, but I loved that one the most when I was a kid.”

“I know what you’re saying. Your grandma-angel is here. The Great Spirit is here.” 

I caressed the top of the water with my fingertips, creating swirling ripples. Birds sang from the trees in high tweets and whistles, forming the cadences and melodies of an unplanned symphony while clouds continued their slow and easy migration across the sky.