Easter - An Atonement
The following is a story, sans images, written in third person but based on real experiences. I hope it challenges readers to seek their own atonement (at-one-ment) with Nature and for others to relish that which they may already have.
Easter - An Atonement
Easter, 2017. Another Sunday, the one day out of seven when the affairs of humans seem to run a bit less frenetically. The man was sipping his early morning coffee, gazing through the window and across the meadow in search of movement, whether wind-blown clouds, ponderosa limbs waving in the breeze, or his feathered or furry kin searching for a meal. The meadow is a visual adventure, serene and healing; its mood ever changing. It is a peaceful foreground for distant hills and still-further mountains. The grasses, crocuses and irises of late spring, the yellow carpet of summer, the brown autumn cover and perhaps a few winter and early spring blizzards mark its seasons. The man’s wife had often sat in the same special spot during her recovery, later attributing her well-being to that deeply experiential, meditative solitude. For him, this morning had no intent beyond his gazing - until the nudge.
The raccoon-like eyes of his little schnauzer partner were at his knee, speaking the language they shared. “I want to go out”, she was saying, a request of two possible interpretations. Checking for intent, he let her go out on the deck. Had she run into the yard, she would have had a call of Nature. Not this time! She remained, looking out through the deck railing across the meadow, ears perked. Hike time! So the man quickly donned his cap and coat, picked up his hiking poles, and together, off they went.
Their hike began at the base of a rough granite dome, one in a series stretching westward into the Laramie Range. It’s a huge pile of billion-plus year old stone that long ago intruded in molten form into an over-lying layer of another geologic matrix that now lies in the plains of eastern Colorado or maybe as silt in the Gulf of Mexico. The man had once climbed nearly to the highest point on this dome, halting his effort with a sense of unease. But there he saw Long’s Peak southward and the plains of Wyoming to the north. Fifty or sixty miles perhaps? It was the lower levels of that dome that man and schnauzer decided to hike this Easter, a jaunt not taken since the preceding autumn.
For the man, the hike was a visual experience, for his partner, an olfactory one. She galloped and trotted, nose to the ground, but within a visual perimeter of him. If a scent momentarily drew her from his sight, a familiar whistle brought her back. They were partners, each immersed in their respective sensual experiences.
Recent high winds had left their mark of downed trees, some already dead when toppled, some alive but shallow-rooted and wind-susceptible. All were as much in the cycle of life as their erect relatives.
The ubiquitous rocks were sufficient stimulus for a lifetime of wonderment. The man paused frequently - and wondered. There was a delicately-curved depression in one boulder, occasionally containing water and probably a safe “watering hole” for forest beings. Another huge boulder sat balanced atop a far smaller one. The scratches, fissures and breaks that in past millennia would have fitted together like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle were all around him. “How?”, he frequently asked in amazement. The question was a recurring one; it happened every time he came here. His companion continued her sniffing.
They came upon a glade, a beautiful, quiet spot. No people, no noise, all calmness. Overhead, clouds were swept along by winds in another layer of atmosphere. With the sun warming his back, the man was overcome by emotion. Not tearful, but close, very close. The atonement! Or as Joseph Campbell deconstructed the word, at-one-ment. Here in a tiny sliver of time on a speck of galactic dust in an immeasurable expanse of time and space, a conscious being contemplated his place. Still bursting with emotion, he was comforted.
Moving reluctantly beyond the glade, the man and his companion came to a precipice that they dared not descend. Below was another grassy sunlit space, and through an opening in the trees on the far side he could see snow-capped peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. How to get down? He nearly retreated before seeing wisdom in the fine gravel - deer tracks - that pointed to a path. They took it, as did those who had been there long before his kind, and gradually came to the clearing. Following the slope that would eventually point homeward, he saw pasque flowers in every sunlit nook. They came to a huge yellow-belly ponderosa, an ancient and elegant forest creature, its bark smoothed and colored by age. His companion slipped on loose bark as she crossed a downed tree, quickly recovering with some rapid back leg movement. They crossed a decades-old barbed wire fence, anchored to a tree at one end and to pitch-pine posts on the other. Finally reaching the base of the dome but still far from their entry point, they walked through a past-its-prime aspen grove and past a collapsed cabin that once rested on a foundation of individual stones. He recalled the wild rhubarb that grew nearby. Staying on animal trails, they moved along. As they rounded the last point of trees they were finally on the meadow again where this story began. At the top of the rise was the window, a dark eye peering across the landscape, where he had sat earlier and where his wife had healed. Slowed and fatigued, they walked and paused their way up the hill toward the window. A pair of black Abert's squirrels welcomed them, noisily scurrying up the hillside as the man and his companion approached. Home at last from their safari for their senses and emotions and dehydrated, they imbibed much-needed water. The schnauzer then slept, and the man gazed out over the meadow again, atoned. Maybe his companion was too.
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