Of all the earthly things that please me these days, none surpasses the sounds rising out of the sunset silence, the natural emptiness interrupting nothing on the ocean or the bay’s far coast. The lingering of the grasshopper in the unclipped grass stops me, and I listen for the disordered chorus of the crickets as my day ends.

I have lived in Maine for a little more than a month now, trying to get my bearings in a new place, so lush with nature I hardly know where to begin. I have been keeping track of the wildflowers taking their turns at occupying their prime real estate in culverts and waste places, have driven by cat-tails poised in roadside wetlands and thought of lopping a few for summer ornamentation in the cabin.

But I have left everything alone, because taking up space in a life too large to comprehend is where I am, too, and I find time alone — or in the company of an old golden retriever — is one kind of moment seems to reduce things to a simplicity I can manage, if not understand.

It reminds me that beauty is keeping me alive, aware, at peace.

The dust of trees long gone to pollen and leaf, accompanied by gusts of wind announcing storms, continues to pile up, not quite as quickly, granted, as the tumbleweeds of golden dog hair shed in the course of any day, every day. The ants and gnats have subsided, surrendering the air to a variety of flies that swarm the car when I arrive home, then stay just a while before looping off frantically to some other part of the wild yard and the barely contained forest.

I know it is about time to get the cable TV hooked up, but my broadband Internet device and a cell phone are more than enough connection to a busy world from which I occasionally need release. There is no television to watch here, and I seldom flick the button to get the radio humming, either, even from the old boom box plopped on the refrigerator’s top.

I am too busy with other distractions, wondering how I went so long with so little quiet save the vocalizations of birds and the strummings of crickets and grasshoppers. In the late summer air drift all the whisperings and frenzied notifications of mating and new generations in the yard.

The line between indoors and out has never been clear to me, and remains a mystery to me now. I am always muddling between the two, muddying up the issue of what living things are meant to stay out there and which can be allowed in here. Now that knapweed and thistle are in bloom and the black-eyed Susans are nodding along the roadsides home, things are even more uncertain than before, except for this: I love this place.

Hours pass when the dog and I see no one, human or canine. But still we feel in good company, the coneflowers coming on, the teasel spreading out like invitations at the edges of the fields. A long time living on the edge of the continent, on the brink of the sea, had made me forget — like a sea anemone floating just beneath the surface of the ocean — where everything began in my life: in the heartland, where the open waves were not water but fields of wheat or soybeans, corn with tassels erupting into harvest.

This forest, in which I now live, contains me. I stand staring into the present moment as though it were an endless tomorrow into which I can see only a few yards before imagination takes over and fills the forest floor with the paths of chipmunks and the matted vegetation that cradles the body of a drowsing doe. In the absence, in the clearing, in a small house of wood built on a bed of stone, I have come home.

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]


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