In the space between ending and beginning, old and new,  summer and fall, there is a swirling vortex of uncertainty. It is a maelstrom  which drives me to lace up my walking shoes and, staff in hand, head into the wild.

I’d been skirting round the edges of this world for about a week—since the day I placed the last period in my new manuscript and sent it off to my editor. Deadlines met always lead to a deep (if temporary) sigh of  relief. Every day for two years and hundreds of pages, I lived in the world of Dragons. They’ve been my constant companions and, it goes without saying that  they stay with me, even if they don’t inform my current literary pursuits. But, as I set their tales aside, the question arises: What now? What can possibly replace Dragons? (Sorry—I have just rightly had my ears singed: Of course, Dragons are irreplaceable. Let me rephrase: With what do I fill the draconic void in my work?)

There’s the ritual cleansing, of course: the obligatory filing  of notes and rough drafts (for future edits or posterity); re-organizing my library, setting stacks of books, kept all these months within a hand’s reach, back where they belong (and realizing, in the process that I need more shelves). Then a couple of days of editing work—the sort that keeps the wolves from the door—followed by rummaging through old projects begging to be finished or rewritten. And there’s the pile of books I’d put off reading and into which I am diving with delight, but that’s a long-term pleasure, not a short-term kick in the ass.

Face it, the clutter may be gone from my desk, but the path forward still lay hidden under a blizzarding of noise swirling through my head: clacketty-clicketty, click, click…nothing clicked.

As the mid-September chill faded on the back of dragon’s breath, the promise of Indian summer filled the air, and I was reminded of Albert Einstein words, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”[1] Never one to ignore sage advice when I hear it, I grabbed my walking stick, stuffed notebook and pen into my pocket, and headed out.

One of the great things about village living is the closeness of wilderness. Within minutes, paved streets gave way to gravel, to dirt, to barely beaten grass. As I rounded the north shore of Lake Paran, frogs lurked in the marsh grass, fingerlings flitted through the shallows, eying damselflies overhead[2]—the first of many meals on their way to becoming big fish. I waved to a lone sunbather and her dog reading on the dock then followed the trail into the woods….

Leaves, no longer swollen with Irene’s rains, rustled like tissue-paper wind chimes; the bitter-sweet scent of impending decay lingered on berry and toadstool; Monarchs and elfin butterflies sipped from aster and thistle.

Animal signs traced through litter and dirt—mole tunnels, snake holes, deer—and anonymous scuffles sounded from the safety of the undergrowth. Then there were the squirrel-sized earthworks everywhere marking winter caches—half would be forgotten in the months to come, though nothing lost is wasted: they simply renew the forest in the spring.

Bit by bit, my mental noise was replaced by wilderness refrains: crickets and cicadas fiddled in the grass; birds were on every tree, kinglets, woodpeckers, flashy orioles, with finches clinging gold to fading cornflowers. Overhead, a quartet of Canada geese announced their presence as they scouted the area. Come November they’ll return, a symphony of friends and family in tow, and take up residence on the lake until the cold drives them further south….

One hour and four miles later, pavement met boot-leather again. (I would have stayed longer but the mosquitoes were having a pre-prandial conclave and I did not relish the idea of being their entrée.) Did I find my answers, know what I was going to do next? No. But that was ok (and I
did get a blog out of the experience!) I was reminded that, in the rhythm of wildness, great and small, there’s all the space and time I need to find my way.

Did I, as Einstein posited, understand everything better?  For the moment, perhaps.

The rumblings of discontent, of violence in corners of the world known and unknown, of injustice and despair that makes the heart weep for our species’collective ignorance, they remain. Perhaps that is as it should be. Perhaps, like monsters and faeries, all things have their place in the Big Picture, even the darkest parts of the universe that tear us from ourselves and each other. We are children in a cosmic playground full of bullies and victims, many black hats and a few white. The optimist in me likes to believe we’ll evolve beyond such infantile horrors, but for now it is the chiaroscuro of our existence, the light and shade, yin and yang, that give purpose to our lives, depth and conflict to our tales.

In an hour, a day, I will re-enter the debate, fight the good fight for our covenant with the world, but for the moment lamentation is lost in cricket song. For the moment I understand, as Shakespeare said, that “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

For the moment that is enough.

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees. ”

― Rainer Maria Rilke


[1] He also said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Enough said.

[2] Are damselflies simply dragonflies in distress?

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