I bought a new T-shirt because it’s April after a long, harsh winter and I need color.
On the tag it says, “Nature is imagination itself” William Blake
I often think that someday I’ll take the time to read more fantasy books, but I’m not keen on the genre, except for a few, like the science fiction fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I wonder at my inability to escape into this genre that is so popular. Maybe it’s because so much of my time is spent fleeing to the 19th-century and to the 18th-century to spend time with the dead so I can write historical fiction. If I have a good day of research and writing, it’s difficult to re-orient myself to the present. In a sense, it’s a fantasy to fall down this rabbit-hole into a world that once was and now isn’t.
But mostly, I don’t relish reading fantasy because nature nurtures my imagination and fantasy abounds, or is it not fantasy and very real? The definition of fantasy is the activity of imagining things, esp. things that are impossible or improbable. I agree with John Muir who said, Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.
In January, just before my birthday with a big, fat zero O, I was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer. It was sudden and ugly, but treatable, and now I have a little gouge in my thigh after fourteen stitches. I’m grateful, but the timing of it, at first, felt mean-spirited. Hee…hee…how do you like this birthday gift, you vain redheaded creature, you! The day before my scheduled surgery, my husband suggested a walk in the woods on a favorite trail. It had been near zero all winter, but it was a balmy 34 degrees that day. I was reluctant. I just wanted to read all day in bed and not think about this cruel birthday gift. But I relented and just before sunset we went to the woods and the air and light wrapped its arms around me in a loving embrace. I tried to shake it off, Leave me alone. You don’t really mean it. I’m fine. Sometimes our only way to endure is to encase ourselves in our own strength. Who is to say this is wrong and who is to say our strength is not a gift of spirit? But my experience has been that nature, in all its beauty and fury, has a lover’s way with me. I am wooed and eventually surrender.
I volunteered as a bluebird monitor many years ago for the local Audubon Center. I cleaned boxes, recorded findings, but never saw a bluebird. I did this for two or three years. In the past two years, however, bluebirds have visited our backyard and we’ve seen them in the woods. They’re illusive and a bit hoighty toighty, never at the feeder or hanging out with others. Each time we go to the woods, we go with hope to see bluebirds. Mostly, we are surprised by them and our breaths are always taken away. Bluebirds will never lose their magic for me.
Here I was in January trying to throw off nature’s hug around my neck and suddenly I hear the sweet melodies of bluebirds and look up to see flocks of them dancing in the air. At first, I thought it was hopefulness and that I was imagining it. Dozens of bluebirds sang and danced for me and then landed in two trees, becoming silent. I raised my hands and asked if they had come to bring hope and happiness. I went home and suffice it to say, I had given in to another lover’s embrace.
In Native American lore, bluebirds symbolize transformation, creative power, and healing. A passage into the big fat O birthday, signing on with a new publisher, and healing for the surgery scheduled. Happy Birthday to me! Indeed, it was a very noteworthy birthday gift.
And just last week, as I walked on the same special trail, I had a reminder inscribed on a tree: