After a long hard day, my mind is just as tired as my body. You can often find me staring into the fire, the stars, or tonight, as I sit on a log in Central Virginia after about 800 miles of hiking the AT, the forest.
The light is now out, and mother nature has tucked the hillside into bed with a heavy blanket of fog. I can barely make out the dark, looming figures of tree trunks through the mist. Beyond, a creek gurgles, and with it, dozens of Peeper Frogs sing. They are loud, the full volume of their song mesmerizing, hypnotizing. Suddenly, and all at once, they stop their singing, as if cut off by a little frog choir director. I imagine it’s wearing a tuxedo. The silence is long, long enough to turn my amusement to suspicion – Do they know something I don’t? The forest becomes eerie, haunted, mysterious.
In the real world, the one that exists outside of the forest, there is little mystery. Everyone it seems – the politicians and the pundits, the religious and the decidedly not, the scientists and the artists, and especially the corporate advertisers – they all alike are providing definitive answers. They seek to solve conclusively all questions, many yet unasked. They try to make “known” that which perhaps cannot be. In the real world, mystery must be conquered and subdued.
But in the forest, there are many more questions than answers. For some this may be problematic, unsettling. There is less known, more uncertainty, less order, and more chaos. But I take comfort in the unknown, the mystery, for mystery I’ve found, is a prerequisite for wonder, for reverence, for faith.
It’s been about a minute of silence now, and finally one frog starts up again. It’s a solo. I don’t know how this particular frog earned this distinction – it’s voice not being noticeably better than the others to my ears. Then another joins in, and another, and then another. Soon the whole chorus has joined in again.
I climb into my sleeping bag and close my eyes. I’m smiling and I’m listening. I’m wondering. I’m taking rest in the mysteries of the forest.