After an impromptu lesson on meditation, our challenge this week was to bring down the level of noise in our heads. I thought about this challenge as I lay in bed that morning and decided on my plans for the day. Every time I’ve gone out to White Clay thus far it has been raining and after 3 weeks I was growing accustomed to the particular kind of penetrating chill the damp air brings. I put on my red rain boots, bundled up in my light blue raincoat, and headed to the spot I picked out last week.
I sat down on the fallen tree by the river and decided that today I would listen. I focused on the gurgling of the stream, but was distracted by the screeching of several nearby crows, cutting the air and snapping me out of my focus. Making it even harder to focus on the sounds of the forest were the swirling waves of rushing water I could see no matter where I looked. I closed my eyes. After a few minutes I began to notice sounds I hadn’t heard before. An entire symphony of bird song that my inattentive ears let the river cover up. The longer I sat with my eyes closed, the more I heard. I counted ten different tunes where previously I had only heard the singing of the river. Forgetting the crows became easy, but every few minutes my anxieties and stressors creeped up. I knew that pushing them away completely would only come with time and practice, but in a moment of frustration I opened my eyes.
When I looked around I realized that the branches surrounding me were coated in dew drops after the rainfall. It was a magical moment. Time seemed to stop. Everywhere I looked thousands of tiny lights lit up the forest to show me what I thought I didn’t need illumination to see. It was like Christmas, my favorite holiday despite my Jewish background, had come early. The drops hung on the tangled branches like the shiny, silver ornaments that bring me so much joy every December.
I looked closer at a small twig dangling near me. The little glass bead on its end, though small, reflected the entirety of the world around it with extraordinary depth. In it I could see the pale gray sky and the twisted branches above me. If I looked closely enough, I could even see a tiny, muddy river, flowing in time with its larger counterpart. I was completely engrossed in this miniature world. My balance is not the best, but I precariously shifted my weight to get closer to the branch. In retrospect, this is the moment when the noise in my head was reduced to a mere whisper. My anxieties no longer mattered. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to inch as close as I could to the magical bead just out of my reach.
In my chemistry classes, I have learned about cohesion and adhesion, the properties of water molecules that allow them to bond with each other and with other substances. But the material was, for lack of a better word, dry and the beauty and the importance of these properties struck me as I examined the dew drops in the forest. Learning about these forces was interesting, but watching them occur in nature was a moving experience.
Soon the wind began to pick up, shaking the branches to and fro and hurling the droplets, one or two at a time, into the river. Christmas in the forest is transient and few people get to see it, or even notice it at all. It only takes a light breeze or the landing of a bird to knock off the dew and remind me that the holiday season ended two months ago. Reluctant to leave Christmas behind, I scampered off of the fallen tree and made my way back to campus.