A Moment of Clarity

snow capped birds nest among tree branchesOccasionally in life we are blessed with a moment of clarity, an instant of insight when suddenly we know something with unquestioning certainty. These moments have the potential to change us forever, to change the way we see the world, and to change our role in it. I had such a moment today.

I was out back taking care of the morning CowChows chores, and as I was trudging along the snow packed path I looked up and noticed a bird’s nest in a tree. It was nearly perfectly camouflaged even now in the dead of winter. Nestled in the bough of a young elm tree its twigs and leaves blended so perfectly that had it not been for the cap of snow on top I might have missed it. Certainly, it had been there all along and I had missed it until now. The tree which held it was itself entangled in the climbing vines of a multiflora rose and I could not imagine how the nest could have been better protected.

As I stood there contemplating this nest and considering the birds who built it I wondered at the process that brought them to make this specific location home. Were they born with an innate instinct, or were they faced with myriad decisions which eventually brought them to this place? As I studied the scene before me and imagined the two birds poring over maps and blueprints I became aware of ice flakes falling about me.

Overnight, a heavy frost had left the CowChows looking as if an expert hand had lightly sprinkled the world with a fine layer of confectioner’s sugar. Now, as the sun shone through for the first time in days and touched upon the upper branches of slumbering trees, these tiny crystals turned loose and wafted gently to the ground. Looking up, I watched them float towards me against a background of clear blue sky and I wondered at how not unlike they are to each of us. Each is unique unto itself and through all of time there will never be any two exactly alike, and yet all share similar characteristics and frailties.

It was while these delicate crystals of ice fell gently upon my face and birdsong carried lightly on the breeze that I experienced that moment of clarity. It came to me not as a thought, but as a fully bloomed flower of knowledge and in that instant I knew without doubt and with unquestioning certainty that, “Damn, it’s still cold out here.”

And I went in the house.

Haunting of the CowChows

little-girl-screamLife at the CowChows is so much fun. I was out back piddling with something the other day when I heard from behind me a very timid, “Hi.”

I turned and there stood one of the neighborhood kids, a blond haired little girl about eight years old. “Hello,” I responded.

We exchanged a few neighborly niceties, and then she asked, “How big is your house?”

I turned and studied the house for a moment and then said, “Oh, I don’t know. Kinda big, I guess. Why?”

“Some of the kids think it’s haunted,” she whispered.

“Oh, it is,” I whispered back and her eyes got very big. “I’m not supposed to talk about it, but there are several ghosts that live in our house.” I looked around to be sure none were listening before continuing, “Some of them are very nice, but some of them scare me sometimes.”

Her mouth dropped open and her stare went from me to the house and back again.”R-r-really,” she stammered, “who are they?”

“Well, there’s the Riverboat Captain. We don’t know for sure but we think he used to drive a boat on the river behind your house and one time when the river was up, like it is now, he fell overboard. He’s kinda grouchy but he’s mostly nice. Then there’s one that we call Grandma because we can hear her softly humming but when we go into the room no one is there, but the rocking-chair is still rocking. Then there’s the old indian chief. His tribe would camp right down there next to the river, and he tells me lots of stories about hunting in these woods and fishing in the river. He once saw a bear right over there in those trees.”

“What about the ones that scare you,” she asked softly.

“Oh,” I said, and I looked around again to be sure none were listening. Her eyes were big again when I looked back. “There’s only one that’s really scary.  You don’t want to meet him. He’s big and kind of hairy all over. Sometimes when he walks he drags one leg like this.” I took a big step toward her and dragged my other boot through the dirt. She backed up. “He only ever laughs when he smells small children and when he does it sounds like this.” I did my best impression of a deranged hyena, and she backed up some more. “He can change the way he looks and sometimes…,” I took another boot-dragging step toward her, “..he makes himself look just like…,”

I didn’t get to finish the story but I’m pretty sure she’ll come back; they always do.

Mischievously yours,

Tim Couch

Life among the Trees and Vines

I hope the pleasures of your day blend together like beans and cornbread.

I went for a walk around the place today and as I walked through the trees, taking in the cool winter air and feeling the sun on my face, I happened to notice a vine way up in the top of a walnut tree. It surprised me because while I knew the vine was growing there I wasn’t aware how high it had climbed. Either it was always obscured by the leaves of the tree, or perhaps I just never bothered to look up. The tree hasn’t suffered because of the vine, probably it isn’t even aware of it. But just by being there, by standing strong and tall and straight, this tree has enabled a spindly little vine to climb higher than it ever could have climbed on its own.

The tree was only doing what trees do, and the vine merely accepted the opportunity to climb the tree because that’s what vines do. Doing what comes naturally and accepting the opportunities that the Universe presents. Maybe, I thought, life isn’t supposed to be any more complicated than that.


Tim Couch