Contemplating Mortality

I went on a hike through the West Liberty University woodlands.  It’s a great place for anyone who wants to gather their thoughts without people distractions so I knew I would be alone.  As I hiked I began counting bird songs.  There were many familiar voices and one new for me, at least for this year: a Louisiana waterthrush.

Louisiana Waterthrush (c) Bill Beatty

My physical work, while I counted bird songs, was to cut a new trail for two classes I’ll be teaching in the near future:  a spring nature hike with my college students and a wildflowers and weeds class for the Master Naturalist series.  As I progressed, an eastern garter snake caught my eye and refused to move far enough to avoid an imminent collision with my weed cutter.  I caught the snake and gently tossed it a short safe distance away.  Old friends greeted me as I continued: Virginia Spring Beauties, Bloodroot, Sharp-leaved Hepatica and others.

Virginia Spring Beauty (c) Bill Beatty

After my work was finished I sat on a fallen oak branch overlooking a stream.  In a quiet pool there were water striders gliding and chasing across the surface guarding unmarked territories.

common water strider (Gerris remgis)

Common Water Strider (c) Bill Beatty

A thought suddenly caught me off guard and I was unexpectedly face-to-face with my mortality.  The same giant, gnarled, dead, dry branch I sat on was the very same branch I had sat under 40+ years earlier.  Then the tree had been very much alive and massive.  Today the tree exists as fodder for bacteria, fungi and many kinds of invertebrates…and as a comfortable seat for a tired explorer.  I sat back watching clouds, avoiding intellectual distractions and thinking things from my heart.

3 thoughts on “Contemplating Mortality

  1. Psalm 19 New International Version (NIV)
    For the director of music. A psalm of David.

    1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
    3 They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
    4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

    Like

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