This morning while washing hiking water bottles, one of our many wild turkeys enjoyed browsing the abundant wild food near the edge of the yard viewed from my kitchen window.
This is not an unusual sight here. Common, really. But not for me, and not for the turkeys, since they never get accustomed to being stalked by me. I am never common to them.
If seeing a turkey outside my window, or a robin, or a blue jay, or a crow, ever becomes common for me, then I will be the real “turkey,” the common one, the lame-brained lunkhead … common as a redneck chugging a beer on his ATV while shooting garbage he hauled into the woods just to shoot at. (Yeah, that’s common around here. If there’s a God, some day I’ll have a chance to catch one of those turkeys in the act. Or, maybe God wouldn’t want me to do that.)
A couple of days ago, I stood outside the house, ruminating over some sad internal distraction that I forgot because a sparrow flew from invisible to visible right at my feet, snatched something from the ground, and disappeared. Moments later, a chipmunk, which we have here in only small number, and which I have never seen near the house at Balsamea, only in the woods, ran up to me and stopped a meter from my feet, then scampered — sauntered, almost — under the landing to the kitchen door.
I wondered, were they working together, this flitterer and scamperer? Toying with me? They succeeded, if my joy was their objective. But they had no objective. They were just being. And reminded me of a little of my being that needed reminding at that moment. Fascinating.
As I type this, a robin keeps grabbing my attention at this big window in front of me. Balsamea has more robins this year than ever before. I almost laugh when I hear their seemingly insane racket in the morning. This morning one of them started near my bedroom window in the pre-dawn light. Yappity, yappity, yappity. Here, there is no yadda, yadda, yadda.
Ah, now there is a lone dove wandering back and forth and in circles, spending an unusual amount of time on the ground in this location. I don’t often see them doing anything but flying away, with their “squeaky” wings whistling, or perched on the ridge of the roof. Doves here appear most often to the ear, not the eye, from a distance in the woods, and they say more in three notes than I do in a thousand words.
As I watch, the dove is finding some things to peck at in the grass and the sand, but he keeps saying to the robin, “What? What? What is it you keep coming back here for all day?”
This is the simplicity of contentment with living in the forest: it will never give up on me. It is not capable of forgetting the essence of its union with me. It is not capable of abandoning that bond. Instead, it never stops enriching the bond, for our mutual benefit. It inspires my love, not just for the forest, but for life, for myself, and for others.
This relationship makes me a better person. I am my best self in the woods.
I call this relationship Balsamea, the union of the soul of forest and man, and yes, still, of dog, for the Prince of Balsamea is still here, part of this union for as long as I am. There is another person always present here, too, always part of this union, one who has been here in the flesh only once very briefly many years ago.
I may be my best self in the woods, but I am nicer to be with when I am alone there, because I am never alone there. There is no solitude in a forest. When in doubt, have a campfire. Sit, and the world sits with you, be it a world of turkeys or trees or lovers or sages.
I suppose I will keep trying to get that one perfect picture of this elusive, clever, sensitive creature, the wild turkey. Today I had a better opportunity than ever before. These are not great pictures, but the best ones I’ve been granted so far. They let me see the bird close-up on this computer screen, as if I were standing three feet from it, not the forty feet from which these shots were made.
No matter, the quality of the photos. This is not about turkey pictures. It’s about the grace of the gift of the life I’ve been given, grace incomparably worth these strange tears of melancholic joy.