I had walked that trail countless times before, so often that my steps upon it had become as familiar as my own heartbeat. But this time, for the first time, I happened to notice a small clearing a few feet away from the path, hidden behind the scrim of honeysuckle and viburnum, half-lit under the box elders and buckthorn.
I stepped off of the path I knew so well and ventured onto a small trail far less travelled. The low-hanging mulberry branches rearranged themselves behind me as I entered the glade, effectively shutting the doorway between the clearly marked, sunny path and a dim and humid place that seemingly offered no way forward.
I stood in the center of that shadowed space, head lifted, eyes closed, emptying my thoughts as I opened myself to deeper, more subtle rhythms. The sounds of a nearby highway—big-rigs throttling their airbrakes, of trucks and sedans, SUVs and compacts revving their engines as they entered the city-bound traffic, the atonal buzz of air molecules rippling against each other and eight lanes of rocketing vehicles—all became white noise as I attuned myself to this unexpected caesura, this opportunity to break open my familiar rhythms.
The air, thick and moist, settled around me then sighed, accepting my presence. The topmost leaves of the elders slithered against each other. A twig snapped. A cardinal sang to his mate. Nearby, a frog. Further away, a woodpecker.
I paused for a moment, resting in the embrace of my Mother, listening for Her still, small voice in the whisperings of the leaves, the call of the cardinal. What revelations might She offer to those who stop, those who listen? I looked around that stubborn hiccup of a space surrounded by so many eagerly invasive plants. “Not much to see here,” it seemed to say, “just dirt.”
But I could see so much more.
At the edge of the glen, I found a knobby shank of bark to lean against the foot of an elder, building a small altar in thanksgiving. I gathered small stones strewn among the twigs and fallen leaves—they were nothing special, really, just dull pebbles—and formed a semi-circle at the base of the tree. I picked a few dandelions—just a few, mindful of the bees—and arranged them as decoration on my simple altar. They would wither and die by the next day, feeding the forest floor.
Still present, yet unseen. Altered.
What magic waits in the forgotten places, in the overlooked spaces? Those pockets of “not much to see here” that are all around us? What revelations might be offered when we examine the hiccups of space that are overlooked, forgotten within us? “Not much to see here; just dirt,” you may say.
But you can see so much more.
When was the last time you created an altar to yourself in your own heart? Gave thanks for your Self?
What’s stopping you from doing that now?