May 22, 2010

Mountain Spring

Spring is late coming to the mountains. The aspen have yet to bud. The grass in the meadow is brown and flat. It sounds with the rustling of dried leaves, not the soft susurration of green shoots. With each gust, fat pinecones drop from the ponderosas like hail.

I have spotted three kinds of striped chipmunk, each of varying courage, and the plain tan ground squirrel. Deer cross the meadow freely and foxes dash from bush to bush. The valley is full of birdsong from dozens of different finches, wrens, swallows, woodpeckers, ravens, magpies, mountain blue jays, hawks, a few lost pigeons, and, after dark, the call of owls. Last night a great shape moved, like a horse made all of knobby knees and elbows, but with the swift, silent gate that seems so improbable in such a large animal. The moose glanced back before disappearing into the darkened forest.

The creeks run fat and swift, overflowing their narrow channels and carving new ones willy-nilly. Though it has not rained in several days, the ponds and lagoons are full, and persistent puddles dot the dirt roads, homes to skimming water bugs. Brilliant white clouds dot the bright blue. The path to the stupa smells of sage and juniper, naturally growing between the boulders on the long slope. It marches upward, ever upward, to the head of the valley where Dharmakaya sits, brilliant white, blue, green, red, yellow, and a shining golden spire. It continues upward beyond into wild backcountry cut by only the occasional four-wheel track. Spring is late coming there too.

But the birds know it will come.

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