For Every Hurt

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies   
and trip over the roots   
of a sweet gum tree,   
in search of medieval   
plants whose leaves,   
when they drop off   
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they   
plop into water.
Suddenly the archetypal   
human desire for peace   
with every other species   
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up. 
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,   
queen of the weeds, revives   
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt   
there is a leaf to cure it.
~Amy Gerstler  from “In Perpetual Spring

Try as we might to find common ground with those so unlike ourselves, it is the differences we focus on despite our efforts to understand and befriend. Whether it is cranky politicians sparring in the headlines, or the perpetual struggle between weak and strong, we miss seeing Creation’s intended balance all around us.

We can dwell compatibly, lion and lamb, without one becoming a meal for the other. Indeed, prey transforms the predator.

Even the barbed and bloody thistle releases its seeds in the cushion of thistledown, drifting gently where the wind will take it next, at once forgiven for the scars it inflicted.

May I strive to be comforting rather than prickly, healing rather than inflicting, wherever I may land.

The Path Between the Thorns

on the WWU campus yesterday

I love the way the doe knows how to go
through the tall brambles: She ambles
her hips first to one side,
then another; tosses her nose high
to sniff the trails of air; and
proffers only a passing glance to
the chickadee on his slanted
branch. She knows the way;
she knows the turn of a hoof print
here, to the right of the wild rose brier;
there, past the tip of the raspberry twig;
she knows the sun even before
his fine arced dome appears
on the eastern horizon, and
she goes that way,
into the still of the dew
into the hills of the morning
in through that path between the thorns
that is so hard for us to see.
~Pat Campbell Carlson “Deer Wisdom”

The deer on our university campus stroll about like students themselves; they taste this, nibble that, try things out to see how they like it.   It is rare for a cougar to stray down from the hills to campus so the deer find themselves unchallenged as long as they stay off the asphalt competing with four wheeled predators.  The campus is a refuge from the world, an idyllic place to hang out, to see and be seen, just like students.

On our farm, they are not so unconcerned.  Life is very uncertain;  one never knows who can be trusted.  Thorns define the pathways and to be safe, a deer must be willingly swallowed by the thorns.  When I approach, she dives into an indiscernible opening in the brushy undergrowth and disappears, leaving no trace she was ever there.  Yet I know she is, peering out from her camouflaged sanctuary, waiting for her moment, undisturbed, in the sun.