“It won’t go in words, but I know that it’s real. I can be moving, or I can be still, but still is still moving to me,” – Willie Nelson


There are sometimes single days when the darkness seems to cover the light for months at a time. There are some months when it seems the light won’t shine at all, even in the summertime.

Sometimes that black dog just won’t stay under the bed or the porch. I’d like to throw a stick so he would run after it and never come back.

I have also come to know there are years, too, that slide into one another across the numbered blank squares on the calendar, pushing askew my sense of time and seasons, blending all my happenings into a giant mound of alphabet soup at the foot of a marquee ladder.

In times like these, I have trouble finding enough letters in the pile to spell my own name. I find it hard to understand my purpose even in that moment, where I’m heading or why I’m moving forward at all.

I don’t know why, but it happens from time to time. I liken it to the doldrums or the horse latitudes. The winds die and my sails slacken, and the horses are thirsty. Water, everywhere, but not to drink.

Over the side they go with a splash.

So long, Flicka.

Auf wiedersehen, Mr. Ed.

The decks are empty, the sun is hotter than the devil’s poker and the food is spoiled. Like the Ancient Mariner, I stand with a dead albatross around my neck, ready for the fun to begin.

I wonder if these periods of misanthropy are related to the changing seasons or something inside, rather than without?

Maybe it has to do with heading toward the vernal equinox?

That balanced occasion of equal day and equal night – each March and September –leaves the glass, on that day, at once half-full and half-empty – kind of like the slackened winds and calm seas of those subtropical highs.

Going nowhere fast, except slow. Feeling low under a high.

The birds and animals don’t seem to sense any of this themselves. In fact, they seem to have increased energy. The growing angle of the sunlight has birds using their voices more often as we begin to slowly roll out of the shackles of wintertime.

A red-bellied woodpecker that has been frequenting a suet feeder in the yard all winter long began singing and drumming on the side of an old maple tree trunk today, about 30 feet above the ground.

The bird also began to poke its head into an old woodpecker hole, removing old wood chips and other debris with its bill, letting them tumble and sift to the ground.

Signs of spring are here even now.

Cheery groups of redpolls hop around on the snow, looking for seeds, making their buzzing and zipping sounds. Soon, they will be packing their little bird suitcases and flapping those tiny wings back up north.

A recent ice storm left a crust over the snow the squirrels seem to enjoy. With the availability of this stable surface, they rush across the snow themselves like birds in bursts of flight, seemingly racing faster than their feet can carry them.

There were some dazzling moments yesterday when the sunlight broke through the clouds briefly to ignite in brilliant flashes the faces of thousands upon thousands of ice diamonds, worn on the arms and fingers of the elegant lady maples and white birches.

If I’m moving backwards, I’m still moving.

If I stand still, I become inactive, moored to the ground around and underneath me, like a moss-covered hemlock. The feeling makes we wonder if trees ever want to be knocked over by a summer thunderstorm or a winter gale, just to be free of the earth.

I’ve also read trees communicate underground through their root systems. Perhaps they get tired of talking to the same tree or trees standing next to them for literally hundreds of years. It makes sense to me.

I guess, in a way, I’m like that too. I’m stuck talking and listening to myself for the breadth of my entire life. I wish I could instead talk to somebody smarter, somebody who had more of the answers.

Of course, even though standing still, my mind can still take me on journeys across the world, maybe even the universe?

The light I long to see today is special light, like that colorful light shed through a prism, reflected off a blue jay’s wing or a hummingbird’s throat, filtered through stained glass or moving like a shimmering curtain in the northern lights.

I want to see that magic still exists. I want to see it right in front of me, up close if possible. If it’s just a trick, a sleight of hand, show me the moves. Let me know how it works.

I hope, like all magician and illusionist audiences hope, that it’s real, that it’s true and not a trick – but somewhere inside we all know the hard candy truth.

I think most everyone has been tricked before. After the first time, it loses its appeal, kind of like chewed-up gum.

Whatever the reason, whatever the case, however I feel today, I can rely truly on the fact that whatever is happening or not happening right now, will pass.

Today, the old windmill wheel is creaking in what little wind is blowing. I am comforted in my silence. Rust is still on the move, hungry for everything it can find to eat.

Like the decomposer beetles that help chew away at fallen logs, breaking them down, rust will one day claim even the oldest junked cars in the woods or beer cans tossed out along the roadways.

But barbed wire, even rusted, has a long memory. So do those monolithic, old mining structures of stone and steel. They were here before I got here, and they’ll be here after I’m gone.

So, I try to keep in mind that the shadows fallen across my path today, tomorrow or even the next day, will wither and melt into the air when the sun shines stronger and higher over the weeks ahead.

Past the equinox, there will be green grasses, April raindrops and crocus and daffodil blooms. In droves, the birds will return from the depths of South America and elsewhere.

There then will be the long, sought-after days of summer, which I like to call the 15 reasons we live here.

True magic will exist then all around us, in the blooming wildflowers, warm breezes and comfortable water temperatures, light lasting until almost midnight – brighter days for sure.

This winter has held a magic all its own with plenty of sub-zero nights, wild winds and snowstorms, calm quiet and peace within woodlands across the countryside.

Sometimes, it is so silent in the middle of night that other animals probably hush a hooting owl or a yipping coyote. For some reason, it feels right to me that animals and even plants must enjoy peace and quiet when they can find it.

If I sit still and close my eyes, right here and right now, I can see me walking down a dirt-road two-track on a warm, spring evening. There are woodcocks tumbling in the skies above and a few patches of snow left around the bases of the trees.

Venus is visible just up over the horizon. The air is refreshing to breathe, and it clears my mind. The best part is I don’t have anywhere special to be the next day and I can take my time getting home, stopping off at the fishing hole for the all-important “witching hour” just before darkness arrives.

If I open my eyes and then close them yet again. I see my boot prints in the dirt of a New Mexican desert. My heart and soul are wide open to the heavens. I’m out here at home with the scorpions, the tarantulas, the rattlesnakes, the ocotillo and all the rest.

Let the sunshine brown my skin. I can drink from the canteen slung on a strap over my shoulder.

I open my eyes again and I’m still here at this desk.

Buoyed up like a leaf floating on a creek current, or a tree moved forward and bent over by time, standing here, rooted to the ground, eyes closed or eyes open, still is still moving to me.

It will take more than a black dog, dreary skies or long, gray days to keep me from moving forward – whether the glass is half-full, empty or broken into a million pieces.

I’ll find out where I am when I get there.


This story was originally published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as part of a series called “Showcasing the DNR.” Read more stories like this at: Michigan.gov/DNRStories.