Being Still: Fidgety Nature Falls Away in the Woods

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The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence. – Chief Luther Standing Bear

I have a hard time being still. Ask anybody who spends time in a meeting with me. I fidget, rock in my chair, twiddle my pen. Even relaxing in conversation, I sit with legs crossed, foot tapping in the air, changing positions frequently, shifting in my chair.

I prefer entertaining to being a guest because I like being active – cooking, serving, cleaning up. It sometimes can be excruciating for me to sit while a host is doing all the work.

And yet, when I put my mind to it, I’m really good at … being still. I spent years as an artist’s model in my late teens and early 20s, able to hold a pose for a half hour, until my limbs were numb and aching.

Now, nearly 50, stillness comes easily in nature. It’s as if all the fidgety-ness of day-to-day life drains out through my soles as I walk a mile into the woods to Owl Lake, a body of water the size of a pond in the Thorn Creek Nature Preserve. There I can sit for an hour at the mossy water’s edge, being silent and still, as still as the lake itself, watching frogs watching me, dragonflies dancing across the water, the head and tail of a turtle momentarily breaking the surface, later appearing to lumber up the side of a fallen tree trunk.

I wait in vain to see a heron, like the one I caught of glimpse of in the morning stepping silently along the creek at the bottom of our hill. No big birds appear, but I get a close look at a spider perched next to me, a dragonfly that seems to pose for my camera, a grasshopper that I chase around a fence post trying to capture his image, and a beautiful butterfly flitting around the parking lot when I get back to my car.

Walking the trail back, I spot nearly rectangular holes in a tree trunk from what I think must be a pileated woodpecker and hope to spot one, but no, not today. Not yet. Not ever, so far.

But I know they’re here. And I will be back to this place many times. This place that feeds my spirit. This place that soothes my soul.

I can be patient.

I can be silent.

I can.