I watch as pieces of my breath leave my body and form puffs of clouds against the cool morning air. I can't see the sun, only the golden light cast upon the sky which announces its arrival and spreads over the heavens like a canvas splashed with streaks of pink and violet light. I feel the cold clear beads of dew sink through my white sneakers and warm socks and into my soul. The trees form black silhouettes against the golden sky, their branches like arms outstretched straining to capture the first rays of sunlight. The sound of birds chirping pierces the cool, silent air as they call to each other and awaken the world like Aurora. Crimson and pink and yellow light gather near the horizon and slowly trickle through the blanket of golden sky. I watch as the painter splashes his canvas with violets and reds, trying to decide which will make his masterpiece better.
This is my cappuccino for the day. My body and mind awaken and stretch themselves open like the branches of the trees, trying to absorb everything. Only the echoes of a dog barking and the revving of a car engine remind me that I'm not deep in an African jungle. The deep colors fade and give way to white clouds and a blue sky that foretell the humid October day.
Later, the hot afternoon sun stands still in the sky, penetrating the dense mass of weeds and shrubbery, making my eyes water. As I walk along the bayou, I am surrounded by the remnants of summer. My arms are alive with the scratching and buzzing of mosquitoes that cling like humidity. I watch a slender, delicate dragonfly balance itself on a tiny yellow flower that sways like a ship of hair. I watch a yellow butterfly with red spots on its wings flutter away like my thoughts. In the bayou, a green turtle pokes his head above the water, then falls back and travels down the stream faster and more gracefully than it ever could on land. It swims past broken pipes and candy wrappers. It narrowly avoids hitting an abandoned tire, and finally disappears to continue fighting its man-made adversaries. I watch as more dragonflies, the color the muddy water hover above the bayou in search of food. I stare so long I can't tell the real dragonflies from their reflections. They are carried away by a gust of wind they fruitlessly try to fight, and when the wind stops blowing, they travel back to their original spot, like Odysseus who eventually made it home despite obstacles.
I look into the mud pit filled with water and strain to see the serenity of nature and the depth of Walden swimming with pickerels and echoing with the wild laugh of the loon, and see the coldness and hardness of nature, the struggle of one-inch long green stems and three-leaf clovers to live among pollution. This is my place, a nook in the world run over by dead minds but teeming with life.
One day I look up and realize that autumn is here. Winter has blown her cold kisses upon the leaves of the trees leaving them yellow and red and brown - the colors of a sunset. Shattered pine cones run over by cars crunch under my feet and sound like someone biting into a jaw-breaker. One tree's leaves are completely red and dangle like drops of blood. That's what it feels like, like all of nature's blood has come to the surface to be drained away. Slants of sunlight illuminate the leaves and I see the remains of an abandoned spiderweb blowing in the wind. The wind sounds like an airplane taking off and the crumpled, brown leaves that cover the floor make a tapping sound, like fingernails on a desk. The blue sky is hidden by thickets of white clouds that seem to lift me by the shoulder the way an eagle captures its prey. I look up at the sky and it seems filled with emotion and spirit. I see the waves of an ocean rolling behind them. I see lightning illuminate the sky for a split second like the fleeting of a bird, and I see the greatest poker player hiding her hand, holding me in suspense, showing her full house, and dealing the next hand before I can catch my breath.
My legs kick something and when I look down, I see ferocious red ants devouring the carcass of a bird. The ants ignore me and continue their work. This is the ferocity of nature, the cold, hard struggle and will to survive and the delicate balance of life. In this place I find beauty and humbleness, and life. This place has helped me do what Thoreau wrote about in "Conclusion." I have turned inward and have begun to contemplate my thoughts and questions, and though I have not found answers (and don't know if I ever will), at least I have gotten rid of the candy wrappers, abandoned tires, and broken pipes that pollute my mind and nourished the soil beneath them, so my thoughts can grow. ^
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.