Sunday, April 6, 2014

A walk in the woods

Today was a beautiful spring day, the first warm Sunday in April, and I took advantage of it. Instead of rushing off in the car (per usual habit) after a weekly band rehearsal in Florence, MA, I lingered a while, looking at the sunlit woods beside the parking lot. A well-worn path led into those woods, inviting me to enter and explore.  

Within a few hundred yards I noticed a large butterfly flitting among the trees. A butterfly!  What a welcome sign of warmer weather and the end of winter!  Stubborn snow piles still exist in shaded corners of some yards, so I wasn't expecting butterflies quite yet. This one flew near me and settled on the ground.

I stood watching the butterfly for a long time, waiting to see the wings open, revealing its colored patterns. It flew up high and then returned near me and landed on the path ahead of me. I'd see a flash of the open wings, but then it folded them upright. As I inched closer, camera in hand, it flew away again and repeated this dance, as if leading me further into the woods. What it really did was lead me back into childhood memories, back into the joy of un-rushed time and the beauty of the natural world.

I had grown up in Danvers near woods and open fields, a pond and small streams. I used to spend hours outdoors playing in the natural world, taking for granted the sights and sounds of New England woods. TODAY I reconnected with that world, seeing it afresh and pausing to appreciate (and photograph) scenes that evoked those days in Danvers.
Birch "bracelet" 
Amid the Princess Pine plants, oak leaves, and pine needles, I saw pieces of decaying birch branches -- just like the ones from which my sister and I made birch bracelets. We'd remove the soft rotting wood, keeping the outer ring of birch bark, which we'd slide over our hands, onto our wrists.
Moss so green and inviting that I bend to stroke it.
Fantastic shapes of fungus on a log

Lichen patterns on a rock

The wet areas especially appealed to me, reminding me of the pond by our home and the fun of watching tadpoles. (I didn't see any today -- too early.)  I also loved the reflections and the patterns of floating and submerged leaves.
Butterfly on branch above
When I walked back to the main path where I had first encountered the butterfly, I was amazed to see it still up on the same branch where I had last seen it, wings spread in the sun. Above was a blue, blue sky. I was warm, happy, and thankful that I had taken the time to enter the woods.

With that butterfly I had experienced a peaceful patience. I had stepped away from my overly-busy life and forgotten its cares. Time slowed down. I was able to sit on the ground without feeling foolish, just happy to watch a butterfly at rest. When it flew high, I stood joyfully on the trail with hand raised. Gradually that butterfly came closer, almost stopping on my head once or twice. I was entranced. When a young boy on a bike happened to enter the woods, I pointed to the butterfly, and he stopped to watch. The butterfly touched his helmet, and then came to land on my outstretched hand!  The boy and I marveled at the intense colors. The dark wings glowed russet, with hints of iridescence in the bright spring sunlight. This magical moment seemed unique, but later, after about half an hour of walking elsewhere, I returned and the butterfly again came to my hand. Overall I probably spent an hour with that butterfly, and another hour exploring bits and pieces of my childhood among the mosses, plants, rocks and wetlands of this woodland. I returned home relaxed, rejuvenated.

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