Resting on top of this glacial hill, deep within the confines of the deciduous Pere Marquette State Forest, I realize I am sharing this space with thousands of others. There is no human being in sight. I do not even hear the slightest sound of human activity. Yet, I share this space with countless others.
I watch as a small swarm of gnats dance together in a stream of sunlight; the sun findings its way through a hole in the tree canopy. Not quite a murmuration of starlings, but a phenomenon nonetheless. They hold their wings high, bodies dangling beneath them like tiny rudders in space. I wonder, do they enjoy riding the wind? They share my space.
A raven has been following me as I hike. I do not see him. He is not close enough to reveal his sleek black body. Yet, I hear him and believe he may be my Spirit Animal as ravens often follow me through the woods. His raucous call warns others to stay away from me. He keeps me safe from Mama Bear whom I also know roams these woods. Raven, bear, they share my space too.
I sit atop dead leaves, devoid of green. They are brittle remnants of their former selves. Lying beneath the vibrant green of August trees who don’t seem to mind sharing the soil with each other. I look up and admire the towering basswood, oak, maple, wild cherry, and beech. Oh, the sad beech! I touch its cancerous skin, riddled with white fungus that eats away, killing it slowly, ever so slowly. Sometimes sharing is not pleasant.
I cherish the sounds the woods create. This wondrous home to birds, plants, beasts. I soak in the sun as it filters through branches and know the trees and I both need and deserve its nourishing gift of warm, nourishing light. I soak in the sun as Raven’s call is fading now. He heads west, following the sun, leaving me alone with my thoughts. We all share the sun.
Some days I share this rolling landscape with humans too, but not today. I see evidence of this sharing. Many trails cross these glacial hills. As I follow the foot path, I cross over ATV and snowmobile trails, even highways. When I hike the woods, I do not like the sound these man-made beasts create. I cringe at the vroom, vroom; zip, zip; or hum, hum of rubber meeting road. But I must share. I know I must. Not everyone is like me. Some prefer engines to hiking shoes. Some prefer speed to a snail’s pace. And I must respect preferences. I must share.
Tree, soil, bird, bear, gnat, engines, people, me. What if we all learned to share respectfully like the forest? Give and take. Share.