As we round False Outer Point I notice the incoming tide, normally as stealthy as a submerging seal, splash over near-shore rocks with as little regard for silence as a surprised seal lion. Fog ghosts move quickly across Smuggler’s Cove. In minutes they become stuck in a hillside spruce forest where they will melt away as the day warms.
I look for drama, a flash of yellow warbler or the plume of a surfacing whale but there are only crows, crabby if their harsh calls mean anything, and one immature eagle that floats to its cliff top roost.
Thankfully, there is rain to dimple the sea and slick rock tide pools. It wets a midden of pulverized mussel and clam shells so they sparkle under Aki’s feet. The shower adds the drama that I seem to need on this mid-summer morning.
I get funny notions when walking in the mountains with Aki. On this image-rich meadow, I wonder whether it will transform me, just a little bit. Will the resin smell of pine and mountain hemlock hide in my hair; the insects, bubble bee, dragonfly, water bug leave faint marks on my soul? Will my laugh at the sight of the little dog galloping back with her frisbee spice the words I speak to the folks at the hospital, where I will visit as lay chaplain later this afternoon? Certainly the peace I take from the walk will help me sit quietly with the lonely or frightened as they begin to heal.
Yesterday the booms of fireworks would have swept over this mountain valley. The false colors of starbursts would have humbled the yellow marsh marigold and the reddish berry flower. Today the flowers shine without competition, as do the water drops clinging to grass and broad leaf plants. A parade of dogs, children, and people move past us on the narrow boardwalk trail. Aki and I step off the trail to let them pass, even the guy talking to his girl on a cell phone. I want to eavesdrop—-to learn if he shares the beauty of the place or just asks her to pick up a half rack of beer at Kenny’s Liquor. I could almost forgive him if he told his lover about this water drop and its neighbor, the berry blossom that mimics a Japanese lantern.
Why, I ask the little dog, did someone whack down the plants bordering this mountain meadow path? It must have been dramatic when the gas powered cutting machine severed flowers, grass, berry bushes, and finger sized alders. I search the resulting debris for survivors and find almost ripe blue berries, still green blades of grass and fading flowers.
A few feet away from the havoc the weight of a flower, a white hedgehog shaped thing, bends over the thin grass blade that nurtures it. A white orchid still flowers next to the living grass. Joy after sorrow?
After the shock, I tell myself that it’s a small, necessary thing. Without the destruction, nature would close over the path and block our only way onto the meadow. I wouldn’t be able to watch the sun favor a Mt. Robert’s avalanche chute with a thin shaft of light or hear a falcon’s cry over the racket of ever present blue jays. But, that’s the way with man in nature. Nature always pays the price of our enjoyment.