Sitting in the woods at midnight

 I love being up in the middle of the night. I love being up working at the desk, I love being up working on my creative projects, but I especially love being outside in the midnight hours.  There is very little road traffic within hearing range, and my particular neighborhood has no street lights, so the nighttime has a natural feel to it. As long as I turn OFF the outside motion sensors when I am out there, that is 🙂

I like taking a walk when the air is cool and the woods are lit only by the moonlight filtering through the trees.  I stay barefoot at night, so I can tell where on the path I am walking.  In the dark spots, I can tell where to turn when I feel the big oak root under my right foot, and I know that I need to duck two steps later to miss the low hanging branch.  When I feel the gravel, I know to bear left to stay off the path to the garden. When I walk down to the firepit area, I can feel the oak leaves all ruffled up under my feet, and I can hear the armadillos rooting around in them closeby.  I can make out in the dim light the chairs as they are gathered around the circle area and I sit in my favorite one.  The one facing each of the three trails: the human walk and the two woods creature trails. If I sit quietly, all sorts of nocturnal critters will begin their nighttime parade past me.  

The crickets keep up their music all night long, pausing in unison here and there whenever a newcomer walks onto the scene.  The raccoons are up chirping and cooing all night long and this morning I can see 3 fat young ones, all tumbling and falling over each other as they follow their mom around and get to know the lay of the land.  They eat the saw palmetto berries that grow in abundance here in the palmetto flatwoods.  The raccoons also eat the grapes on the wild vines and the acorns that fall from the oaks.  They haven’t touched my container garden yet; my two baby green peppers are safe and growing.  They eat whatever sunflower seeds the birds and squirrels have left for them.

At night, their route is this: they come out of the woods from the west and start by squeezing under the wooden gate.  They check the concrete bench for seeds, then the table, then crawl up the camphor tree and across to the privacy fence to see if there are any left over on the little ledge there.  Then they waddle across the roof to check for any peanuts that might have been tossed up there and forgotten.  Hope springs eternal. Then down the oak to the birdbath area to catch any seeds that have sprouted there, then over to the bird feeder area.  Then they bravely cross the driveway, still under the oak canopy, and begin checking the big flat rock where I place more black oil sunflower seeds.  This is a big oak-leafy-mulchy-garden area that the animals all like to root around in, so the raccoon family will spend some time there, digging up juicy earthworms and voles and such.  This is a big area, so by the time they finish working it, they are near the back fenceline.  In season, this is when they go after the loquats (Feb-May) and mulberries (March-June), but for now they are waiting on the saw palmetto berries to come on.  Then they crawl along the north fence line, underneath the claredendron, arborvitae, the crepe myrtle, turk’s cap and arbicola back into the west woods.  That’s their route.

Although I like the quiet of the nighttime as I sit outside under the stars and watch the moon travel across the sky, it’s often like grand central station.  The parade includes raccoons, armadillos, opposums, moles and voles, brown rabbits, the occasional fox.  I can hear an owl in the oak hammock, calling to another in the hammock at the end of the block.  Now and again I can hear something slithering by, and can only guess at its size by the length of the slither.  It’s just another evening’s traffic for these guys.

There’s something so healing, so soothing about sitting alone in the middle of the night, everyone else asleep, the house finally quiet, no artificial sights or sounds.  For me, it feels like sitting in the lap of a favorite grandmother, wrapped all sound and secure, no cares, no worries, everything working out as it should.  These are powerful times to do some creative visualization work, some pre-paving of how I’d like the rest of the week to go, the rest of the month.  Just a few moment’s thought here and there.  And a few more moments going over in my mind all the things that went right the day before, all the things I appreciate and would like more of.

These are also the times that I can feel the most connection, the times I feel the most response in meditation.  It is the time I feel most finely tuned to the signal, like a favorite radio station that comes in clearest when all the competing signals turn off for the night.  I can hear the message much more clearly.  Sitting in the oak woods at midnight is sometimes truly like sitting at the feet of the Master.

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