Monday, August 18, 2014

What we were really looking for

Let us take a little trip into the great Boreal Forest. Here and there I have been reading things about this Boreal Forest, but only in passing, so I am not clear on what it is. But I'm pretty sure it extends from the end of our balcony, overlooking Lake Superior, all the way, uninterrupted, to just shy of the North Pole. If I decide at dusk not to look at our roaring fire, or at the hazy sunset glowing lake, I can look into a dense wall of trees, mostly pines. There is that one white birch just outside the forest, but that's like a marker for the beginning of the Boreal Forest. If I could see forever I could count all the pines in this single forest that runs from us to the top of the world. I could tell you the exact number of trees, but you could not understand it. No, I could not understand it either. The number is too big. They say there is one tree for every wave that ever rolled across Lake Superior's surface. They say there is one tree for every time anyone has thought of a forest. We have no idea what these numbers are. They are too large. I max out at the comprehension of numbers somewhere in the upper eighties. You may do far better than I, but believe me, you cannot handle these trees. 

So let's step into these woods. Only in summer, only if the mosquitoes are lying low, only for an hour, only if there aren't too many people, only if there is no rain, only if the trail is good, only if it is not too hot, and only by day.

We will take it exactly as it comes.

We are in the forest now. Forget the number of trees. Forget the North Pole. Forget the rain that is not raining. Forget the mosquitoes that are not biting. Forget the night. Forget the winter.

We are only here now, and there is only one thing for us now. Where is the moose?

There is not a single moment where we do not search for the moose. Why? We are not going to see a moose. No, this is the moose trick. A classic scheme of misdirection. We set the whole forest looking for moose, and the forest, in turn, forgets to hide itself.

No, not animals, no birds, no squirrels, no frogs, or minks, or bears, the Boreal Forest is empty today. All the animals of the Boreal Forest are on summer vacation. But keep looking for moose and there are yellow mushrooms and red mushrooms and mushrooms that look like the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. There are chasms and waterfalls and little berries you'd have to be crazy to eat. There are white trees and black trees, and holes that the world mysteriously disappears into, white flowers and leaves forever and red stone polished by water and the root of trees spelling out complicated ruminations on the edges of cliffs. My knees are weak. All these beautiful, marvelous, wonderful things with us in the Boreal Forest. All so helpful looking for moose that are not there.

And then there is one berry. Just one. I pick it. I think it might be a raspberry because it still might sort of be raspberry season. I roll the fruit in my fingers. I smell it. All the way into August it is not a raspberry, but a strawberry. I eat it.

THAT is what I was looking for. The trees may stand uncounted. The moose can relax now. We are done here.

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