Sunday, April 12, 2020

THE SIGHS OF PINES – And Other Sounds of a Pandemic

The bigger the tree, the more wisely it speaks.

I live in the heart of Minneapolis, a mile from the bustling University of Minnesota campus, and less than a block from interstate I-94. So I’ve gotten used to the constant din of tires on pavement, faulty mufflers, air conditioners, lawn mowers, trains and planes. Sally and I pretend the ever-present freeway hiss is the surf, piped in from Zihuatanejo, our second favorite place to live, on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

        Other, more subtle voices of Nature
        get absorbed in the urban sound sponge.

We do hear birds here in the city, but mostly just those within half a block. It’s kind of like trying to spot the Milky Way or Northern Lights through the veil of urban light pollution; they just can’t beat the competition.

Other, more subtle voices of Nature are lost entirely, absorbed in the urban sound sponge. Sounds like gentle rains, pigeon wings, soft voices…and the sighs of pines.

What a shame the latter. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in true wilderness, where pines speak uncontested. They forecast the weather; they shush you when you’re loud; and they lull you to sleep.

            They spoke to me. In whispers I’d
            have missed a month or a year ago.

One recent windy day, I was out on one of the twice-daily walks I’ve been taking since the corona virus pushed us all into more sedentary routines. By now, the route’s become so familiar that I’m finding I hardly notice little natural wonders along the way.

In a small park just off East River Parkway stand a half dozen medium-sized white pines—I suppose you could call them adolescents. Usually, I pay them little heed—except I like to walk through their soft skirts of rust-colored needles.

      So much worry, so much stress over this 
      pandemic nightmare, released just like that.

That day, though, something was different. This time I heard them speak to me. In whispers I’d have missed a month or a year ago, before the city’s volume got turned down. Breathy words that soothed me, counseled me not to worry, to tap into my core of hope and faith just as their own roots reach deep into the soil for nourishment.

PHOTO: Arbor Day Foundation
That chafing of long, supple, five-to-a-cluster needles, like brushes on drums, brought me to my peaceful center. Without thinking, I took a deep breath and sighed myself. So much worry, so much stress over this pandemic nightmare, released just like that.

I stood there in awe for several minutes, savoring that delicious windfall gift, a precious and timely reminder I’d never have discerned above typical workaday ambient noise. And one that lightened and brightened a day otherwise muted by dreadful, deafening habit.


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