The building slowly retreated into the background as I walked into the woods. There’s a mysticism about nature, of which I am sceptical. Many choose to unreservedly champion the grandeur of nature, but I’ve spent too many hours working outdoors to hold such a position. Natural beauty is manifold and immense, but rather like the stripes of a tiger, sublimely beautiful but deadly if admired too closely. The beauty of nature is exquisite, but not unconditionally so.
It was not surprising then, that as I looked around me the thought crept into my head, “it’s not so beautiful here right now, it’s almost ugly.” Undoubtedly a few weeks ago the forest would have been alive with colour and majesty. The colours of autumn can alight the landscape in an unmatched visual cornucopia. The leaves now however, lay underfoot, already decomposing and creating a soft, brown carpet. The landscape was almost entirely brown, with only the early morning frost to add a touch of colour to the monochrome.
The sound of a creek drew me in. I stepped down the sides of the bank, feet almost touching the iced over water. An empty bucket in the centre of the creek, trapped by a rock dam, blighted the scene. I stood there for a moment considering whether it was worth attempting to retrieve it but my mind wandered and the thought was forgotten rather than rejected.
I looked down and noticed that there was a layer of ice at the bottom of the creek and then water flowing over top. The white of the ice contrasted with the brown creek bottom, perfectly visible in through the silt free water. I watched as some air bubbles flowed with the current, trapped beneath the glassy layer of surface ice. The bubbles would flow together, lazily meet and disperse. It crossed my mind that although stunning natural beauty was absent, there was still a poetry to the area. A small fish lazily flapped his fins in order to maintain his position in the stream. A second later he disappeared. The water was perfectly clear but the camouflage was too clever for my eyes. Only due to his movement as the current pulled him downstream was I able to make him out again.
Turning, I faced the bank. The sides of the bank rose several feet above where I was standing so I was able to view the sparsely treed forest at almost eye-level. The light of the morning sun lit up countless shimmering spider webs. The underbrush, now devoid of leaves, were tinselled in these threads of light, constantly moving and changing. The light would climb up and down the web, illuminating it and then leaving, and the strands would disappear. Many strands glowed white, one, a vivid indigo, leapt out from the rest. Then I caught sight of two rose hips still clinging to a bush. These splashes of red against the varied hues of brown offered a consummate counterpoint. A fallen tree blocked the sun, but its light gleamed on the underside of the log, a flash of brilliance captured by a thick cobweb.
I considered the scene. The sound of the creek rippled in the background, the chill air cleansed my pores and awakened me to miracle being alive. My breath was a cloud of glistening, tiny diamonds that swirled before dissipating into the frosty air. Deer tracks underfoot and blue sky above; I turned my head half a degree and the scene adjusted anew, revealing another perspective of majesty. In each half a second the details altered, offering up a new treasure, like an artist unable to finish a painting because with each passing second new inspiration would compel the brush to canvas. The forest which had first appeared dead to me, now was alive, brought to life by the light of the sun. I could not escape the resplendent beauty; it stretched out near and far in all directions.
As I left the sanctified setting my eyes involuntarily swept upwards. The sky, empty of clouds, was rich blue. The moon, distant and beautiful, half peeked out from the shadow of the Earth. Doubtless the beauty of the Earth remained even as my eyes now fixed themselves on the moon’s glory. My mind was unable to cope with the splendour and I was obliged to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the artist capable of creating on such a scale, and with perfect harmonization from all the senses. I beheld but a portion of a cosmic masterpiece that changes through time, not dying, but being reborn.
As I walked back to the lodge the world reverted to its mundane normalcy. The divine sparks so evident before now retreated. My eyes, minutes earlier alert to every consecrated detail, were blinded once again. I mentally began composing these words to describe the experience, knowing that with time the emotions would fade into a two dimensional memory, like a snapshot of a mountain rather than the mountain itself. My mind, at work crafting sentences, was distracted by a squirrel running through the trees like an invitation; the divine may always be seen, if I but allow my eyes to be opened.