Monday, May 31, 2010

Symphony of Stones

As I approached the rock on which I would sit, I stumbled along the smooth, round rocks piled up on the river bank. Because my eyes were intently focused on my every step for fear that I might fall, I did not, at first, see the imposing Eagle take to the air just a few yards in front of me. When my eye caught the movement, he was already about a hundred feet from me, maneuvering gracefully away, without panic, as in slow motion, floating up toward the trees and following the line of the shore. He disappeared behind a stand of tall pine, high above the water. My eyes followed him as I toddled along the river stones and made my way to the big, dusty black rock at the river’s edge. I climbed up to the top, awkwardly positioning my denim-clad derriere on a sharp corner, ready to swing my legs over and face the expanse of the water. However, my eyes caught the flash of scuttling fur as a Weasel quickly dashed across the stones seeking shelter from the large beast that had come to perch in its space. I sat still and watched as it positioned itself at the top of the chicken-wire covered pilings, camouflaging itself among the rocks so well that I wondered if it had, indeed, shape shifted and become stone. It did not move until I turned my head away for a moment to scan the river, and then only to shift its position. I continued to observe its slight movements for a long while, certain there was a lesson to be had in its stillness; the watchfulness and caution it practiced in not knowing the manner of creature that sat menacingly not far away.

From a nearby cove, hidden by a bend in the river, two mallards drifted and landed on a smooth part of the water where no ripples disturbed the surface. They bobbed peacefully within that space as if they had been placed in a quiet pond in the midst of a vast turbulence. The gentle burbling of the water on the rocks beneath me rhythmically lulled me into a trance that I felt certain I had never experienced without falling asleep, yet I did not feel sleepy. The sun laid his charming hands on my back, keeping the cold breeze from chasing me back to the warmth and safety of my house, while in front of me, the smudged grey clouds, laden with moisture blew Eastward.

The stillness of this place on the rock, the symphony of the stones, the weasel’s transformation from fur to stone, all bear witness to the strength of silence, something I have up till now, denied within myself. I do not feel the stranger here, but rather as one accepted by the surroundings, as much a part of the rock and the water and the moment as any other creation. I find that, alone on this great pebble standing sentry along the shores of the Columbia, here I belong. Here, where the millennia have witnessed the comings and goings of nature’s cycles, the habitation and extinction of both animal and human, the rising and falling of the great water, I blend into the landscape, unknown, unjudged, unpretentious, imperfect and complete, just as all that is natural around me. Here, the cycles of life continue, unhindered, regardless of the progress of man, and who’s power is greater by far. Here, every sound, from the rustle of the breeze in the pine to the cry of the Eagle, is not made in vain. Every movement is calculated by a force greater than itself. I am made small by the earth about me, but I am not made insignificant, for insignificance would imply that I was less important a creation than all of this. This rock upon which I near daily sit, respects me, as do the beings around me from the river stones to the Mallard ducks, as I must, in turn, respect them. We have seen and acknowledged each other, wordlessly stating our intentions for this time and this space and in so doing, have learned to cohabitate peaceably.

As I looked out over the water, watching the clouds move over the far hills, I realize that Eagle never returned, but Weasel remained at his guard watching as I dismounted my seat and headed for home. He watches me still.

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