Getting in Touch

Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

I am walking along a narrow path that follows the edge between a deciduous and coniferous part of this forest.  The mountain wood sorrels are in bloom and I stop and take time to let their beauty bleed into my memory.  The green leaves, shaped like a shamrock, are bright green.  The flowers are located on a long stem that emanates from the center of the shamrock leaf.  The flower has five light pink petals, each with veins that run parallel with the outside each of the flower petal. The flower is erect and can easily see from my standing position although I soon find myself on my hands and knees so that I can examine the flower closely. The flower has yellow anthers that are in striking contrast to the light pink petals.




Just ahead there is a small area of New York ferns.  This plant appears grows in a dense cluster that covers the forest floor.  The green fern is easily identified by the shape of the plant.  The leaflets along the main stem start short at the tip, get longer as you look towards the base of the plant until at somewhere just north of the midpoint of the stem the leaflets start getting shorter again.  The leaflets along the stem south of the midpoint get smaller and smaller until the last one is just a couple of centimeter long.  The underside of the leaflet reveals thick rows of spores found along the main vein of the leaflet. Little else grows here because of the dense thicket of New York fern.


It is my opinion that a walk in the forest should be done slowly and methodically.  Every new leaf, every fungus, every plant deserves a second look.  I am typically consumed by the absolute beauty of the biota that makes up an ecosystem.  There is so much to observe.  Although I take observational walks frequently I almost always intrigued by all there is to see; the complexities of the forest are nearly endless.


On occasion I sit in one spot and just absorb everything around me.  My eyes, ears, and sense of smell use some sort of extraordinary osmosis to take in all that is around me.  In concert I can witness the miracle of a plant part, hear birds singing, and smell the musty earth from a recent rain.  If I really am in the zone all of this information is somehow absorbed and assembled in my brain for later interpretation.  On days when I am less perceptive I am happy to just enjoy the rapture of the moment.


I run my hand through the leaf matter on the surface of the soil.  It is moist and dark and full of small critters.  Small, almost microscopic, insects known as springtails jump incredible distances when exposed to the light.  I try to cover the exposed soil back up with leaves and needles to lessen the impact of my curiosity.  I can smell the dank soil even after it is covered with the freshly placed leaves.  The odor is the smell of decomposition; a process that returns nutrients to the soil and feeds all of the living things that make up this precious ecosystem.


As I look around the forest I can hear an automobile in the distance.  I imagine someone rushing to where they are going and not noticing a single thing along the way.  I hear a second car on the same road and realize it is about 7 AM and most people are heading to work in some distance place, doing some distant job that may or may not relate to their individual lives.  I too must go to work today, but I am fortunate that I work am working from my homestead today where everything is familiar and relevant. 


I often find myself worrying about out present social system and economic structure and wonder if most people are becoming so disconnected from the natural world that it is becoming “foreign” to them.  It is not only the speed of our society, but where we focus our attention.


Since the inception of the electronic age people have come to expect several things.  The first is that information will be delivered to them.  It takes very little effort to get information these days.  Google seems to contain 50% of the information in the world.  The second is that people expect information fast.  You almost never have to travel to get information.  It can be gotten almost instantly from your computer or blackberry.  The third is that the information is complete.  This is largely a myth, but most people hold on to a belief that the information they receive in the electronic age is both complete and accurate.  Frequently neither is true.


I often worry that people are losing their skills to seek out information.  Has curiosity waned?  Gathering information, sifting through it, and deciphering that information is a real skill that can only be learned by experiencing the entire process.


I am most concerned about how all of this detracts from our origin.  We all came from the earth; the place where nearly perfect interrelationships have formed and are still forming to establish a balanced and healthy organism.  We are part of that organism and cannot possibly appreciate either the organism or ourselves without taking the time to experience and witness the intricacies of the natural systems that are in place.  We are more than what we experience.  We are a living testament to our earth’s historical evolution.  We are an integral part of the largest known living organism; Gaia our planet.


I wonder how we have gone so far astray and how we can get back to our roots. Miracles are far and few in this world and I am hoping that it does not require one to wake up our inner nature.; the part of us that is still connected to the planet. 


A bird in the distance sings.  The song is melodic and peaceful.  Some say that birds mostly sing as a way of marking their territories.  I doubt that is entirely true.  Birds are far more in tune with the natural world than are we.  I believe it is their way of harmonizing with the natural world.  Perhaps we humans should join them; a simple three part harmony would be a good beginning.


Written for in June 2009.











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