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QUINTESSENCE

In Its Place

The moth and fish eggs are in their place,
The suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have...
for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

- Walt Whitman

Beyond my study window the wind sighs hard and angry. A storm from over the Pacific has pounded the Cascade Mountains the last few days, hurled across the sage high desert and now catches in the pines and canyons of these inland northwest river valleys. The autumnal equinox of just a week ago felt gentle; a graceful tipping of the scale into another season. This day feels rough and furious, the energy of nature unleashed without temperament or caution. The earth is a monumental force of combative physics, a blue ball hurtling in black space, the whims and fractions of the elements wrecking havoc across the oceans and continents. Whitman's words fill me with a sense of belonging and serenity, even as nature is making it clear everything is for the taking. Stand and I will shred you of your leaves, your shingles, your habitat, your peace.

It is interesting to me the way in which I, as most humans, move in and out of awareness of myself as a precarious biological presence. Rooted lightly in an otherwise inorganic earth. The rock and wind, the heat and cold and pounding rains break down the living, the once living, all that is organic, and incorporate all things over and over again into an ecosystem we usually take for granted, forget, hold in false dominion. I have a healthy respect for wind like this. The long delicate branches of the birch trees snarl and toss as the old soldiers lean in against the gusts. Birds are nowhere to be seen but for the hunting falcons high above on the thermals. The backyard squirrels are snugged deep in the embrace of the boughs of the blue spruce.

Sometimes our lives feel as if they are ravaged by forces such as this, subject to events and elements beyond our small selves. We bend under the onslaught, scurry for shelter in hopes of riding out the storm. We are shredded by winds of disappointment, of loss, by harm or even danger. When I received news today a dear friend was the targeted victim of a smash and grab robbery while stopped in traffic in a taxi in Paris, I trembled. The wind roars. But she is safe. Her belongings and valuables are certainly gone, but her loved one and her life are intact. Memories remain when things do not. The wind passes, and we gather the downed limbs.

I return to the words of Whitman at the beginning of this essay. I take comfort.
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