What is peace? Peace is the silent porcupine emerging from the cement culvert and onto the gravel road. With simple determination and no distractions, he crosses the road and into the ditch where water has pooled with a thin layer of ice preserved underneath afternoon shadows.
A northwest blows and 50-foot pine trees sing and sway in unison while their crowns and limbs rub and clank against others reaching for the suns’ rays. Bits of bark and pine needles fall like snow and absorb into the knee-high autumn grasses that have become brown and bent from the recent hard freeze.
The forest is alive in other ways, and provides a sanctuary, not only to the porcupine, but the ravens, finches, deer, squirrels, and others hidden in dens, under brush, and in the tree-tops. A green trough is laying on its side, the 50 pounds of cracked corn well devoured. Socks holding thistle are tossed about the nail holding them to a pine tree, the birds having split the shell and finding the seeds.
This autumn day is near perfection. Although the air is cold, my soul and heart are warm and the sun is generous with spare fingers of light reaching for me through the branches. Walking toward the prairie, the pine trees are situated in long rows with a tunnel between each. Light streams forth down this tunnel, and shadows run across the land and in between each tree and through the tall grasses.
I find solace and snippets of peace when I run into the forest with no planned direction, no agenda, and keep going until my legs give out as I fall into the prairie grass, looking at the sky and the slow moving clouds. For hours I lay there and listen and breathe deep breaths of stinging air. I hope for rain. I hope for sun. I hope for each minute and hour to blend and lead into another minute and hour so I can remain a part of this intimate collage of things.
So many things comprise the immediate landscape that I only see a fraction of from my earthen position. Three sunflowers beneath a pine tree, that surprisingly survived their first winter, poke their heads above the grass. Elongated Indian grass sways and bends at their middle, presenting an offering of a hungry ladybug. From a distance, I hear a red squirrel and its high pitched cry, announcing the presence of an outsider. I hope they will soon forget I am here and continue their previous activities.
No image or photo can truly capture the glass sky without any clouds and the tall pine jumps at you from the background. This is nature. This is nature undisturbed and at peace and I come here to insert myself as unobtrusively as possible into the workings of this machine.
As the sun nears 12:00 and reaches over the tops, open fields gather more light and before our eyes, things gain life, gain more of a belonging, upright stance as this is their land. This is their place.
Time passes and nature seemingly has forgotten that I am here buried within the grass and earth. I imagine that the trees extend their roots from the tree line and they slowly creep toward me, and when my eyes close and I drift into a whisper of sleep, they merge into my limbs and replace human organs with tree hearts, acorns, pine needles, and maple leaves. When I awake, I no longer have fear, doubts, questions, or a feeling of being disconnected. I now hear the heartbeat of each tree. I see the forest through each eye at the end of the branches. I feel the soft, black, cool earth through my roots. Most importantly, I know the collective thoughts of the trees, guardians of the landscape, and the symbiotic relationship with grass, shrub, ferns, each grain of sand, dirt, and sunflower.
When I think of peace, I think of here, nestled within the trees and prairie, and the nature both mobile and entrenched with deep roots. Each root and paw connected in a web born from the universe and the beginning roots I grow tapping into this energy.