Earth’s navel

I’m leaning on a limb I removed from an overzealous elm. It’s shoulder high and thick as a wrist, tight grained and green, heavy enough for Friar Tuck.

I tilt holding the bough and like the hands on a clock I turn on its axis. Centred like this, I scan upward and watch the the way the afternoon slant of sunlight draws out the dappled white from surrounding aspen. And how the white dyes the nearby sky deep blue like laundry. At this moment, it’s as though I have to keep myself from falling upward into the still point of bark and sky and breath. As though it’s time’s turn to reach me.

poplarskyCanada geese have sounded their arrival. I mark the date. It’s early but perhaps open water can be found on the edges of Lac Ste Anne or Sandy Lake or Lac La Nonne. But changing weather patterns have altered migratory paths. These geese may stay or fly far north.

Then a ruckus. A Northern goshawk. Now two. One chases the other through 40 ft poplars, the first lands high and breaks off a dead branch which carelessly careens its way to the snow below. These raptors, magnificent, like the mysterium tremendum alert the blood and raise the hair on my skin. The squirrel that’s left a small midden on the cabin step would do well to stay below until the shadow passes.

I turn southwest and trace the sharp staccato coming from the head of a Downy woodpecker. She’s far away but her drumming is somewhere inside me. Then I catch a speck of red and black as she flies me blind into the descending sun.

In this church north of latitude 53 and west of longitude 114, just here at this cross, I coax my wife to read me poetry while I stoop and poke at the fire. She reads lines from Wendell Berry: I stand and wait for light / to open the dark of night. I stand and wait for prayer / to find me here.

Here, I’m found, at the place where an elm stave is planted in the thawing earth. Here is the axis mundi. Here is the earth’s navel where gods, like Homing pigeons, slip in and out with prayers tied to their legs.


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