I captured this photo on a November hike, arrested by the hieroglyphic quality of the insect trail on the tree trunk. Perhaps this is the dead trunk of an ash tree, and the grooves were made by emerald ash borer larvae, deposited as eggs beneath the trunk and munching to maturity while slowly killing the tree. These little bastards have left thousands of dead trees in their wake across Michigan, just in the last few years.
In trying to put myself in the head of a bug that made these channels, it strikes me that they came into awareness in a dark location suitable for their growth, and started living their purpose, chewing blindly forward, ever forward, until something told them they were done and it was time to move on. They came and left with only the narrowest conception of the tree, their host, as just the flat earth they wandered while they lived. I can step back and take measure of the tree’s geometry from my perspective, the intricate three-dimensionality of it, the size and the volume of space it occupies. Then mentally subtract the tree, and what’s left is a delicate cylindrical negative of the bugs’ road. The destructive little bastards left us some art to attest to their one-dimensional grindage.
This weekend I went for a run in a nearby forest, a few times around a 2-mile loop in the snowy woods. Hills and tough footing made it slow going. After all that struggle and conversion of oxygen into forward motion, I finished right back where I started. But nothing was the same, including me. As an aside, an hour of solitude in the woods offers solutions to many things.
Time pushes us forward, usually not unidirectionally, instead on a tortuous path around, over, under, between and in spite of. Even Brownian motion must still be forward, driven by the arrow of time. We go backward in our memories while we move forward in time, forward on our path – whether it’s linear, forked, bifurcated, doubles or triples back on itself, we still have to move forward.
Blindly we make our path and trace our wild pattern in the dark substrate, unaware of so much, and never really appreciating the beauty and complexity of our winding course or the medium on which it’s traced. And we’ll never have the vantage to see revealed in full the path we trace – but might someone else?
Forward is time working upon us, us working within time. You’ll never read that last sentence again, for the first time. You’ll never have this exact now again. You’ve moved forward.
Michigan’s radiance in late summer approaching autumn…here the sunrise chases cool morning mist from a chain of lakes.
I went out yesterday morning with the camera intending to capture striking, stunningly beautiful photographs of nature – the sun was rising, dew was heavy in the cool morning – conditions were perfect.
Near our house is a through-way of high tension power lines. I’ve taken our ladies berry-picking back there many times on the trail underneath the power lines, filling our small containers with ripe black raspberries. Those hikes were as much about the time outdoors together as they were about the fruit.
A couple weeks ago, a cutting crew was contracted by the power company to clear-cut underneath the power line easement. Everything’s gone now, all the small trees, the sumac and honeysuckle, and the black raspberry bushes.
The trail is still identifiable.
I’m not quite mourning, as I know the reasons why. This area will grow back over time, and there are other spaces for hiking and berry-picking. It’s an occasion to consider the tradeoffs of our modern age, and to aim the camera upwards for a change.
For me, August 15th is always ‘Orion Day’, at least since that first time many years ago when I attached some significance to the reappearance of the most recognizable winter constellation.
I caught him scouting out the late-summer territory a few weeks ago, but now he’s determined the coast is clear and boldly makes an appearance before sunrise – he has arrived. Orion’s presence here in August is a reminder of the cycle through which we all pass, appreciating what remains of summer and looking toward autumn’s rewards.
Wheeling through this cycle again, I think about time passing and our ladies growing up – at my age, life is a stream of events and duties against the backdrop of a seasonal wheel. But for children, the seasons are a ratchet – this summer of being 12 will fold into 7th grade and she’ll never return to summer quite the same way. So it’s important to hold those moments, like last night, when she came home from her friend’s house, asked to go back and spend the night, gave me that hug and left with her musical laughter trailing behind.
The wheel turns, and we go around again – but it’s never the same trip and what a beautiful ride.
Sitting beside a body of water at sunset has a way of putting things in perfect perspective. Doing so with kids around magnifies that by 10x or so.
Sometimes we adults think we have it together. We’ve got it all figured out. Planning, projecting, we control our destinies, we OWN our careers. We make things happen.
Then come those times when we realize – no, make that remember, because it’s buried there in each of us – in a crystalline instant, that it’s all about the joy of the present moment – even if that clarity is fleeting, the memory of it remains, to be applied within.
Yesterday was an active Saturday – miles & miles of cycling across lower Michigan to the lakeshore, first to South Haven and then north to Saugatuck. The family joined up with me for lunch at the brewpub, then we headed to the beach for a swim and into town for the Art Fair. In the evening we dragged ourselves home for some needed repair sleep.
I snuck out and caught you this morning, Betelgeuse.
Yes, I was drawn out by brilliant Venus, backed up by regal Jupiter in the early twilight. But I saw your orange shimmer down close to the horizon, about to be veiled in the rising sun’s radiance, like you were peering through the crack of an open door.
Every mid-August I look forward to the appearance of Orion in the morning sky. He brings the promise of cool fall weather and I think ahead to him riding high above in the dome of a crystalline winter night sky.
For now it’s still July, and at 6am the new daylight streaks across the east and north; it will be warm again today and summer still dominates our attention but look closely – our days are noticeably shorter, evidence that the grand wheel spins. Betelgeuse sneaks into the early morning sky affirming that change is afoot, letting Orion know that the coast will be clear in another fortnight.
Glorious, how we roll.