I drifted out of that place I called the ‘tween time…
It was the childhood name I had given to those morning moments between the dream and the waking world. The ‘tween time is when reality is only loosely held together. It is a time when I know that the constraints of what we call ‘the physical world’ are an illusion and that anything less than ‘infinite possibilities’ is an understatement. As a child, in these moments I’d often float around the room once or twice, make something appear or disappear, get a wonderful idea, or set the stage for something special to happen that day.
This morning, I whispered into the fading shapeless forming, “Surprise me!” and I opened my eyes.
Perhaps too soon to call it ‘early’ as the snow is still on the ground in most places. Days are often too cold to venture out without a down bubble of warmth. A light snowfall yesterday frustrated my playful spirit which is clearly ready for green grass and the feel of hot sun on my shoulders. Nonetheless I can feel it. The balance is shifting between the frosty morning and the sunny afternoon. It won’t be long now.
For the first time this year, I decided to detour my morning walk through the woods, braving the soft mud and remnants of snowbanks, risking, perhaps, only a muddy cuff or soaking sock. I stopped and peered through the trees, looking for a clear path to follow. Woody stood expectantly by my side, ears perked, listening for a clue as to what I might be waiting for.
It was completely still. The only sound a distant drip of water and the creaking of a branch as the ice released its hold. A slight wind, a surprisingly warm breeze stirred. Something fell, bounced off a few limbs with a deadened echo, and landed with a soft crunch in a patch of remaining snow. Woody tensed.
It was the moment before the woods wake up. In a forest’s heartbeat, it will be teeming with life. Countless birds, chipmunks, squirrels, crickets, and frogs; each one shouting in their private language of whistles, screeches, chirping, and burps. Growing things will be poking their heads aboveground, stretching their tendrils toward the light. Sounds and motion, a frenzy of scurrying and chasing, birth and feeding everywhere.
In the distance through the trees I could see the edge of the old granite quarry. This was the secret of these woods; a sacred place of play, peace, and ritual. The quarry was about the size of a football field, spring fed with the purest, cleanest water that the earth could bubble up. On three sides were nearly vertical rock walls that reached 30 feet high. There were enough granite pieces jutting from the walls that they could be climbed, but it was risky. A misstep would send the unlucky adventurer splashing into the water. On the remaining side there was a mossy beach with large, flat granite stones for laying in the sun and a few firm stumps for sitting. All around the quarry were half-buried remnants of the machines used for cutting and hauling stone when the quarry was active; pulleys, thick steel cable, and huge iron casings whose purpose was unclear.
In back was the granite junk pile, a mountain of gigantic broken or mis-shaped stones that were unsuitable as product from the quarry and carelessly discarded.
Oddly, when reckless groups of teenagers would romp through the woods looking for a place to drink and smoke, they seemed to miss the quarry, finding instead the waterfall a half mile away which was now littered with empty beer cans, a rusted shopping cart, and occasional white condoms sticking out of the ground that could easily be mistaken for mushrooms. When they did stumble upon the quarry, they would go silent, there might be uncomfortable laughter, and they’d quickly move on. Sometimes one of the boys or girls would come back a few days later and sit quietly on the bank.
The ground between the trees didn’t look too soggy. Woody and I made our way through the brittle branches to the quarry, he faster than I.
The surface ice had melted and the water was completely still. It was too soon for fish and frogs, although it would not be long. Hints of green peeked trough at the edges, but only barely. A bird chirped somewhere nearby, but only one. Soon there would be thousands. The old soul here was beginning to stir. I sat on a warm stone, let my thoughts drift, and shifted into the peaceful consciousness around me.
Yes, the quarry was waking from the winter. I felt tiny bubbles seep out from the mud at the bottom, slide along the ice to the melted edge, then float up to the surface. Something was beginning to breathe. Something stirred inside an egg, another thing twitched as a heart began to beat slowly. Roots at the edge started to drink as the ice in the ground released and let water through again. This had happened a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million times before.
The quarry had been dreaming about the busy times. Men and horses arrived every morning carrying lunchboxes and tools. Huge blocks of stone would be hewn from the bottom and sides of the widening hole, cut, and taken away. There was constant activity, shouting, hammering, a cacophony of sounds that completely obliterated nature’s noises. The quarry changed its form during those days; from an unnoticeable underground rock to a deep busy chasm filled with men and machinery.
One fall, as the quarry drifted off to sleep, it decided that the transformation was complete. Its dream through the winter was of a sacred place that softly glowed with tranquility. In the following early spring, the quarry, in its own moment of ‘tween brought the dream awake with it.
It began as a small puddle at the bottom of the great hole. The men frantically installed pumps and pipes but still, the puddle remained. “It is time to go,” said the quarry to the men and with eternal gratitude to the men for what they had sculpted of it, the quarry began filling with water.
I thanked the quarry, stood up, and my friend and I walked deeper into the woods.