July 4th, 2020
I started walking before the sun was above the horizon. The sky was clear and the air was already warm. I followed my usual path down Oakwood Road. There was no traffic, none at all. I walk due west. I could see a cumulus cloud in the distance slowly beginning to glow pink in the morning light.
I like to walk early in the morning. It is easier for me to appreciate nature then. Sure, there are houses all around me, but there are also some woods and a few farm fields. There is a vast marshy area on both sides of Oakwood. As I walked, tall grass and cattails barely moved in an almost imperceptible breeze. I could hear bird calls near the wetlands. I picked out the sound of a red cardinal that was lost somewhere in the green leaves of a tree. A sandhill crane took off silently in front of me. Then it cried out. Its voice was like the loud creaking of a rusty door hinge. Half a dozen crows perched in bare branches, high atop a dead cottonwood.
Frogs jumped from the grass near the street into the ditch water. They didn’t croak as much as they made a high-pitched squeak as the made the leap. A muskrat slid into the murky marsh as I approached. The animal made no sound at all.
The milkweeds are almost ready to bloom. There are still some black eyed susans and daisies along the road. Soon the chicory will show some blue flowers.
Just past the marsh I saw a doe. She was standing at the side of the road, looking at me. I walked toward the deer and waved. She just kept staring. As I got within ten feet of the doe, she woke from her dream and darted across the street. The last thing I saw of her was her white tail held high as she disappeared into the brush.
The sun was peaking through the tree branches in the east. The yellow light illuminated the scores of dead ash trees. The ashes looked like black skeletal hands reaching up to the sky. The ash trees have already had their pandemic with the emerald ash borer. There are very few living ash trees left. The dead ones stand forlorn, just waiting for a strong storm to topple them. Other types of trees are growing up in their midst. In few years, these maples and walnuts and cottonwoods will be taller than the dead ashes, if any of the ashes are still upright.
I passed two dead raccoons on the way back home. They were on the side of the road. A car must have hit them. There was a reddish black stain on the asphalt. I stopped for a moment. I remembered my friend, Senji. Years ago, we had both seen a dead deer on a road in Indiana. Senji had bowed deeply in front of the deer and placed the palms of his hands together. He made Gassho. He honored the life of the deer and then walked on.
I bowed before the raccoons, made gassho, and then walked home.