Walking along the path to Lost Lake was like having an entire cathedral to yourself. Just you and the mosquitos partaking in the mystery of existence. For you, the utter beauty of the sugar maple leaves crowning overhead, the Indian Summer sun lighting each leaf like a piece of stained glass, the sapphire blue sky beyond lending whispers of an even deeper mystery. For the mosquitoes, the ancient sacrament of a blood feast, not a symbolic ritual on their part. As long as you kept walking, you could avoid much of their fervor.
Between walking fast and gazing upwards–there was so much to see, an utter explosion of color and vibrancy–it is a small miracle that you see them, this patch of maidenhair ferns. They, too, were at the end of their season, and at the edges of their colony some of the greens were fraying into brown. But in the center of this patch (the size of a small bedroom) the ferns were still lush spirals of ancient plant wisdom. You recognized them instantly, like the face of an old friend on a crowded sidewalk, and a happy “Oh!” escaped your lips.
The recognition startles you, for you have been walking for days in a forest that bears some resemblance to the forests of your home, still, everything is a little different. You are surprised and refreshed to have come across this old friend, this familiar face, and in your surprise you find that her beauty is even more pronounced. You want to stay longer and visit, but the push of the sidewalk–or in this case, mosquitoes–carries you forward. Onward you walk into the extravagant mystery of this Michigan forest in its last flame of warmth and color, with the talisman of fern wisdom pressed upon your heart.
It’s true the plants speak to us. We hear them in different ways, our capacity for translation tuned to our specific skill and biology. Some hear the songs of the plants–I envy them!–and others grasp wisdom or medicine. And just as no human relationship is ever the same–for is it not the energetic meeting of two unique beings?–so it is with plants. Oftentimes you walk away with something enigmatic that asks you to dig further into your being. And so you begin–to hum, or draw, or write–to see what may tumble from the caves and creeks of your body, your hands weaving the sacred architecture of the fern with the questions you carry in your heart, the fronds smiling like a green monk, whispering yes, yes, you are almost there.