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Very photogenic, delicate, and lovely Trout-Lilies. (Click to enlarge)There are countless recurring elements that mark the spring season. Some are large and obvious, like gradually warming temperatures, the general greening up of the landscape, and the symphony of bird songs in the air. Other markers include the gradual increase in insect activity, and the yellow-green powder of tree pollen that covers the hood of my car, and gathers like a porridge in pools left by brief April showers. The more subtle, defining elements of spring are those hidden woodland flowers tucked away here and there atop moss and fern covered boulders, quietly blooming in relative solitude. Often we must look carefully to spot them amidst the general confusion of forest litter and debris, but when they are discovered, their simple and unspeakable beauty stops us in our tracks. To happen upon one of these spring flowers, to be face-to-face, as it were, is to be in the presence of something undeniably sacred. 

Once, many years ago when I was just learning to identify wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and their habitats, I came across a peculiar patch of small, delicate green leaves with many finger-like lobes. Not knowing what it was, I naturally looked around to see if there were others of its kind that might be blooming and give me a better clue. I saw none.

Pants hanging out to dry in the breeze. . . Dutchman's Breeches. (Click to enlarge)I knelt down beside the trail where the plant grew and I simply admired their texture and sway. I caressed the leaves gently, speaking to the plant and wondering what it was. I studied the slight color variation  and the delicate veins on the leaves. After a few minutes of really just being in the moment with that plant – not flipping my way through the field guides or doing a mental analysis as I had been doing on previous hikes with other plants – I looked up from the leaves of that mystery plant to the area immediately around us and gasped. There were at least fifteen other plants of the same species all blooming as plain as day. It was as though a cloak of invisibility was lifted, and they chose to reveal themselves to me. I was shocked at this gift bestowed in such dramatic fashion. Since that day, I have always looked forward to seeing these old friends – the Dutchman's Breeches – each spring season. . .

Recently, while taking a meditation walk along the trails of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation seeking solace for my spirit and rejuvenation for my body, I became acutely aware of the presence of water all around me. A steep rocky slope rose up from the trail to my right, while dropping down and away to my left was a wetland fed by a river and many small streams. The sound of water filled the woods. In half a dozen places intermittent streams crossed the trail, cascading with exuberance to join the meandering water course below. I paused at each water-crossing, and I listened. Within the "sound of water" I heard conversations of a sort. Though the water spoke no English – or any language of man – I was, nonetheless, able to perceive some of what was being said – or rather sung. To my mind, the water sang many separate melodies, ditties, hymns, ballads, arias, work-songs, and nursery rhymes. Some songs joined together, others seemed to quietly babble away, paying no particular attention to the louder, splashing water-songs of the woods.

A small waterfall along the trail. (Click to enlarge)If you listen to someone speak a foreign language (that you don't know), what you hear initially are just a sequence of sounds. You don't hear words. If you are in the presence of the person speaking the language, you will begin to somehow get an idea of what they are trying to communicate to you. You see their gestures, perhaps, and may read their emotion. You look in their eyes to reach past the barrier of language, struggling to understand them. More often than not, you will begin to get their communication despite not knowing a single word of their language. So it was for me with the water surrounding me during that hike.

Life giving waters flowing in a forest stream. (Click to enlarge)I understood something deeper about water that was beyond the intellectual knowledge I have about it, though I am not sure I can translate it into our language. I can say that the water was aware of me standing with my feet in it as it rushed under, over, and around them. It was not particularly interested in my presence though. It was everywhere simultaneously: in the rush of a stream, the mist in the air, the trillions of gallons being drawn up by tree and plant roots, the blood in my veins, the sweat on my brow. I felt my consciousness expand and for a moment I saw all the waters of the world united in one consciousness and with one overarching purpose. The simplest way to say it, I guess, is that water conducts life. It changes all things by its presence or absence. It tears down mountains. It washes away man-made things. It ends lives and saves lives. Water is fluid consciousness. It is alive. In the deepest, most primordial past, water gave birth to life. Our bodies are simply space suits that evolved to carry the primordial waters inside, allowing us to live on dry land.

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