How do you photograph sound? The chatter of those fat red breasted harbingers of spring, or the sweet morning song of chickadees, or the sound of moisture dripping from moss-covered trees to the mud below? How do you photograph the damp smell of freshly turned dirt, wet with rain, exposing the minutiae of life in the roots of newly fallen trees? How do you photograph the sensation of renewal in a forest after a storm? How do you photograph hope, when it is so much more than what our eyes can see?
This morning, a round of robins fills the yard, the first I’ve seen since before the weather turned cold last October. The ground is soaked with rain after all that snow: I wonder if it makes for good worm pickings. As I watch their dance, a bluejay, again the first I’ve seen since summer, flies past my window and into the tree, down to the grass, into the tree, constantly moving, weaving in and out and adding color to the show I want to call Dance of the Robins.
My morning walk takes me down into the little forest near our house. The normally clear paths are blocked with fallen trees and broken branches and storm debris. Runners and small groups of weekend walkers usually fill the paths with noise and chatter, even in the rain, but today they run by on the street, passing the forest entrance, not willing to navigate the chaos. I am selfishly pleased. Kona-the-dawg and I have the forest to ourselves. We climb over and under and get our feet muddy and feel the scratching of branches and breathe in the fresh, damp, earthy scent.
Here, there is evidence of chaos from the recent storm, as well as signs of life renewing itself. The skunk cabbage catches my attention: that tenacious plant that thrives in the mud like the lotus flower, and when you think nothing could possibly grow in all that muck, it pops out with bright green leaves and brilliant yellow spathes and fills the world with it’s amazing stink.
We had a major storm here recently. Heavy snows broke the trees around us and left us without power for several days. Our street was closed, and with no traffic noise, no hum from power lines, no noisy internet chatter, I sat for long periods in silence and meditation. I have carried a great deal of weight for a long time, and like the trees, I feel ready to break.
Today I watch the robins play and listen to the chickadees sing. I notice the blooming of the skunk cabbage and feel the (much warmer) rain. Life happens, and chaos is necessary for growth. When we hold too much for too long or when there is too much snow on a tree branch, there is nothing to do but break and let go. Then, we learn to embrace change. Then, in the way of nature, life renews itself, and we begin again.
On this beautiful Sunday morning I see hope in these signs of spring – signs that appear unexpectedly in this space of time when winter has not yet let go, and spring still seems so far off. The cold darkness of winter will always give way to the renewal of spring. That is the song of the robin.