Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heart and Soul

The woods were glorious last weekend.  All around my small cabin in the hills fall was paintin' lovely scenes.  Mom Nature artfully draped a mountain mist on the shoulders of tall oaks and down below, closer to the ground, wrapped it around on holly, sassafras and mountain laurel.

The deer walked slowly all day long through the trees, kickin' up acorns.  Preferrin' white oak acorns, they taste better, but eatin' the red oak ones when they were around.  I laughed often as I walked the woods.  More than once my path met theirs and they would stomp like spoiled youngin's, mad I was interruptin' their meal, tryin' to get me to move as I would freeze for long moments to watch them.  Almost always their tail would eventually rise and they would run for a short distance.  A whistle from me and they would pause, turn and circle round to see what and who I was.

It was an uneasy truce most of the time.

One morning I left the cabin at 5:30 and went to sit in the woods to see the sunrise.  I must confess that I rose too early and it was well over an hour before the hint of morning.  I was dressed well enough, so I was not cold.  I sat against a tree and dozed (one of my favorite early morning things to do) as I listened for the hills to come alive with a new dawn.

I first heard the birds wake and start their morning calls. It is amazing how they seem to wake as one, to sing and call and fly from bush to tree, all in harmony, as if it is a great play and they have received their cue from the stage manager, "now, fly and chirp".

The squirrels are not too long in bed after the birds send a wake up call.  An untrained ear might think it is a deer or larger animal in the woods walking along, but I have heard the jump, pause, jump and run of grey squirrel and the fox squirrel, their larger cousin too often to be taken in by their ruse.

Finally I hear a hesitant movement, the pushin' aside of leaves in an unendin' seach for fodder.  A few deer make their way up the gully below me.  I watch carefully through the trees and brush as a magnificent 10 point buck, Grandfather of the herd, makes his way through the leaves, pickin' up acorns and chewing as he ponders the woods.  At one point I think he spies me.  He looks warily but then relaxes and lowers his head, pickin' up an acorn with his tender lips and chewing carefully, savoring the white oak nuts he finds.

I am a country boy, I do not apologize for my desire to be the hunter, bring home food for my family.  Not today though... and not this old feller.  He would be tough as nails an' gamy, man oh man.  A trophy, yes, but not fittin' for the table.  That, dear cousin is the difference between a city and country boy.  We are a part of the world, a tight fitting piece in a world that has lost familiarity to most folks.  A world that we have insulated ourselves from.  Like my ancestors, Scots, Irish, Welsh, Melungeon, Cherokee, Powhatan and Choctaw who lived in the Appalachias, we were taught to live in and use the wealth of the hills, not to waste, to know we are a part.

Today though, I am a mountain philosopher, a poet watching a verse, walking softly, rhyming with the woods and forming stories in my mind.  Yes, I taste and see that this is good, I feel and hear his heart beat, listen to him snort.  I want to chase him, win him, to be the victor and taste the victory.  I want to be the brave, the hunter, the mountain man preparing for winter.  I am the spy instead, the sneak, the laughing victor who has hidden and fooled the wary buck.

With that I know I am content, happy to watch this day.  Happy to feel the interweaving that makes me an Appalachian, to feel the tug of the hunt, but to know in my heart that there is no need, so sitting, listenin' to the turkey cluck in the distance, watch this ancient deer wander off is enough.

I hear the heartbeat of the mountains in me as I sit,connected to the very earth that is the lifeblood of folks like me.  It is the mountains and I am theirs, heart and soul.

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