Yesterday was bright and sunny after four days of rain, and it felt blissful. It’s raining again today, and though dreary, it’s still welcome. Any drought or warning of such has been downgraded, and we are at normal levels of water after an almost year-long dry spell. However, does that mean normal for this time? I went to see some waterfalls the other day, and they were running well but nothing out of the ordinary. In the past, I have been blown away by the sheer force and amount of water raging through our waterways this time of year. But still water is everywhere, thank goodness for that. I’m already thinking about this season’s mushrooms, as last year was bereft of them.
Spring soldiers forth. In the woods, by the melting vernal pools, the wood frogs and peepers are out. I hear the wood frogs from a distance, sounding like a flock of hens quietly clucking in the swamp. When I reach them they are suddenly quiet; when I walk away they begin again. Snow is still melting off, it’s wet and slushy and holds old footprints, feathering at the edges, soon to disappear. Water is everywhere, rushing through the rocks. Ducks, Buffleheads perhaps, screech and fly away as soon as they hear me venture anywhere near them.
Along the river, a juvenile eagle soars, which is always thrilling. If you’ve seen bald eagles then you understand: they truly are majestic. They are extremely large, so much so that you immediately know you are seeing an eagle, and not, say, a vulture. We are lucky enough to see these creatures along the Hudson River now that they have made a healthy return from the brink of extinction. Bald eagles are easily recognized in their adult plumage as the white head is very striking. The juvenile is dark-headed, and has a mottled breast, and not quite as immediately noticeable but for its size. I must have startled this bird from seeking out a deer carcass we passed earlier that was being torn apart by a wake of vultures. Eagles are fish hunters, but they don’t pass up the opportunity of scavenging.
As I walk watching the land wake up, I’ve been asking myself what truly matters? As I ponder this, I conversely ask what doesn’t matter? Does mattering matter? Some things don’t need to matter because they just are. Being is important enough for the wood frogs and the peepers, eagles and vultures. So: what does matter? I find my mind starts to obsess about the things I should be doing, or attaining, but when I stop to observe my surroundings, I realize that the things that I thought were so important really aren’t. And that those things we all know to really matter: our health, our loves, our integrity, are easily enough tended to if we let them just be.
I often walk on local naturalist John Burroughs’ old homestead and land, Slabsides. I just finished Burroughs’ first book, Wake-Robin. Our library has a large collection of his work and books on his life and the history of the area. They are having a series of talks on American naturalists this month, and on April 21st the topic will be Burroughs and his life.
This week I read Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. It was perfect quick read, and in essence was about asking who we are, as individuals, and what matters.
Apparently, what’s important is also in the stars. Isn’t it always?