Inner Peace: Getting grounded at North Mountain Park

    I gotta get over there now! I haven’t been over there yet today and I am usually there by 7:30 a.m. every day. It is 11 o’clock. Too much time on the computer. The Internet has one thing after another that distracts me: email, YouTube and songs I want to learn, reviews. Now I need to be outside.

    I put on my grubbier shoes. Jacket. No weights today. I want my arms to swing high and freely. Out the back door. Down the side yard path. Past the other newish lookalike houses that feel impersonal, cross North Mountain and — ahh — I am walking on dirt, and wood chips. The dirt path gives under my footsteps. So much nicer than concrete.

    The air is crisp, and I smell plum flowers. The ground is moist and the scent of earth moves through my nostrils. Walk around old wood shed and into the trees! A small pond to the right. Ah …. two mallards. The male and the female together. On a log, a silent turtle, dark in color, not moving. Several paces more and I am on the bank of the creek, searching for the mergansers that were visible a few weeks ago, but not since. Maybe there will be steelhead trout, like in Lithia Park a few days ago. I want to see steelhead shifting slowly inches below the cool reflecting surface. But nothing today.

    Moving along the creekside, approaching the birdbox 15 feet above, I look for the flicker that I sometimes see. Please be there. I want to see how your neck and beak torque to the left, toward the creek. I want to see your smooth brown feathers and slow curve of your beak. But you are not in this spot today.

    Tromping through horsetail, the path gets slippery. The rods of these plants crunch under my step. Brambles pull at the fabric of my pants. I swing my legs to avoid getting caught by the thorns. Maybe the pygmy owl will be here again in the trees coming up on the right. It was here for several days, but haven’t seen it since. It was on a low branch, but now the branches are empty. Where are you spending your morning?

    The woods open up and there is sky. I search the sky for hawks. What’s that? Crow? Raven? Hawk? Keep looking. Oh, that’s a raven. No red-tails like there are on many days.

    Up the hill I climb, rising above the trees and above town. The sky is big. Clumps of clouds, white and gray, to the north; a blue expanse to the south. Two dramatic panoramas in one sky.

    Back down the hill and into the trees again, but this time I take another path. This way leads to the bigger pond. Will the bufflehead couple be there? They are there so regularly in the morning, but not in the evenings when I come back to be grounded again. Yes, I spot the bigger, more dramatic anatomy of the male first. He swims loyally by the side of his partner, the much smaller, darker female. I miss the buffleheads when they are not here at the pond. I will look for them every day, winter and spring.

    Miriam Sundheim moved to Ashland in the summer of 2015. She is originally from the Philadelphia area, and lived in the Bay Area for 35 years. She works in one of Ashland's schools assisting with math instruction.

    Editor's note: Inner Peace is appearing a day early this week. Quills & Queues will run Saturday this week.


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