delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

The telling place

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Bless us, Lord, this day with vision.

May this place be a sacred place,

a telling place,

where heaven and earth meet.

~ from Celtic Daily Prayer

It’s been very hot here in the Carolinas the last few days, with the temperature touching 105 degrees on Friday. But it drops about 30 or so degrees during the night…so today, Belle and I were taking advantage of the relatively cool early morning air…before the sun rose over the trees.

Two summers ago, we had some trees felled with the intent to clear a bit more space out front. The logger hauled away the trees, but left some brush piles of limbs and branches that had been shorn from the trees, so they could be neatly stacked on the truck. I managed to carefully set ablaze two smaller piles that were out in the open. But the last pile, which was huge…about six feet high by 10 or more feet long…gave me pause before attempting to torch it. There were some other trees not all that far away, and I was afraid that the next day my name would be in the local newspaper, identified as the man who started the huge conflagration of forest in upstate South Carolina.

So…this rather largish brush pile out front became my nemesis. I occasionally paced around it and fretted about it…trying to come up with a plan of attack. Someone told me to wait until it started raining…then douse the pile with kerosene…and then apply a match. After much consideration…and running through the gamut of possible outcomes…none of them endearing me with the local volunteer fire department…I took the only reasonable approach that came to mind. I did nothing…and let it be.  Brush piles were, after all, supposed to be good habitat for wildlife, weren’t they? I would be doing the birds…and who knows what other kinds of animals…a favor, providing them with a haven…a refuge of sorts. I started to look upon the brush pile not as my old nemesis…my adversary…but as a fellow contributor to the well-being of my wild neighbors.  Anyway…it all began to sound good in my head.

After two years have gone by, the pile is still there, but it  isn’t all that visible anymore. It’s been overgrown with vines, including  Japanese Honeysuckle…which is classified as an alien pest plant. I have no idea how it ever got here…but it’s everywhere in these parts…and it has the redeeming value of smelling wonderful. And, if the sweet scent weren’t enough…deer, rabbits, and hummingbirds all enjoy the plant as a significant food source.

The only part of the brush pile that is still visible from the front porch, is a single, long, arching branch. It’s a favorite perch for the diminutive Carolina Wren, as he belts out his tunes…which are surprisingly loud for such a tiny bird. This morning, a pair of  Indigo Buntings took their turns on this same branch…both chipping away…alarmed at something in the vicinity. They most likely have a nest in or near the brush pile.

In ancient and aboriginal societies, people would gather together…sometimes around fires in the dark…to tell and share stories with one another. Stories that had meaning for them. Stories about creation…new beginnings…and the meaning of life. The places where they met were referred to as telling places…places for meeting…for giving and receiving one another’s stories.

I’m coming to see this place where I live as a telling place…where stories are being told on a daily basis. Whether it’s the story of the Indigo Bunting…an essentially black bird, whose feathers somehow magically diffract sunlight, so that it appears a brilliant shade of blue…or the story of the sweet smelling, long-distance voyager named Japanese Honeysuckle…far from its Asian homeland. Even my old nemesis, the brush pile, has indeed become a friend…and has joined in on the narrative that is taking place in my very back yard. A thin place where…if I take the time to stop, open my eyes…and listen carefully…heaven and earth meet.

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