I’ve been struggling with some tough news lately, and it’s made it hard to concentrate. Meditation is difficult, so I’ve taken to walking up the hill near our house instead.
It’s a very New England hill, a hill with plenty of history. Quinobequin arrowheads lie scattered in the ground, and in the nineteenth century part of the hill was cleared for sheep-grazing. But now the forest has grown back, and on spring nights you hear can peepers singing their hearts out deep in the piney woods.
I’d like to say that I was appreciating all this when I walked up the hill the other day. But the truth is my mind was on other things, not only going up (which often happens) but going down, too (which happens much less).
Tired of walking round and round my own brain, I finally stopped and took hold of an oak leaf and made myself look at it.
This is what I was expecting: a dark, rigid-veined leaf, shiny and tough.
Here is what I actually saw: a tender flag of spring green, velvety soft and luminous against my hand.
I looked at that leaf for quite a while. And then, as I glanced down, I could finally see what I’d been blind to on my way up: the delicate pink of lady’s slippers shyly blooming in the shade.