She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. (Proverbs 3:18)

Standing water among the trees – an ephemeral pond usually dry by midsummer has been filled by all the rains of August and September. Stained to the color of dark tea, it traps bright leaves & bits of caterpillar frass. Backlit by the mid-morning sun, floodwater mosquitoes rise from the surface among streamers of mist.

Through that shallow mirror I glimpsed last year’s leaves lying brown within the outlines of each reflected trunk – red oak, sweet birch, black cherry – & their green & yellow canopies. Only the patch of sky was wholly reflective, pale blue permitting no double vision. I crossed over to the boulder field beyond: white quartzite scaly with green & orange rock tripe. I don’t know why I’m so struck by colors lately.

I thought about our fight a year ago last spring with the developers farther down the ridge and their plan to gouge out the side of the mountain for a shopping center. Now with the damage done, it appears they’ve run out of money & the whole thing will go bust. When our Audubon chapter was considering a legal challenge, we learned all about standing, & were told we didn’t have any. But the strata stand nearly on end, & geologists predicted a hydrological nightmare. Sure enough, during the torrential rains from Hurricane Ivan large sections of the excavation slid, threatening the freeway below.

I jotted down some thoughts in my pocket notebook: Standing stone. Standing water. Tree of Life. That was last week. I wonder now what I meant? Something about transpiration, perhaps, or how we each purify the world in our own way, & that’s what eventually kills us. This air, they say, carries more pollutants than in any comparable area on the continent. But if you were here, I’d show you hidden gardens among the rocks.

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