Sunday, September 12, 2010

Faint voices

Through the deep woods, the slanting sunlight
Casts motley patterns on the jade-green mosses.
No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain,
Yet faint voices drift on the air.*

Wang Wei, 8th century

The woods are getting quieter these days. The concert of bird families with hungry babies has faded away. No one's talking except the crows, and even they keep quiet most of the time. As I walked along the trail this morning, a silent flock of geese flew overhead, so low I could hear the whispering beat of their wings. A pileated woodpecker dropped down onto the ground not far from me, hunting for food and making not a sound except for a faint rustling of leaves. Pileateds seem to spend a lot of time earthbound in autumn. They're a curious sight--big, redheaded birds toddling belly-to-the-ground like foraging squirrels. A wren complained when I walked by, but there was no fury in her rasp. On my way out of the park I moved a box turtle from the road to the treeline. He hissed softly, then pulled into his shell with nothing more to say.

*To read a slew of different translations of this same verse, go here.

Forest in the Morning Light, Asher Brown Durand, c. 1855