Fog in the woods

Fog in the woods


I walk on the hills of Serenity. There are trees, shrubs and grasses. There are insects and other critters. There are elk, deer, bears and eagles. I walk slowly to see what is before me. A pinion pine with more delicate needles and smaller stature stands amongst the larger and majestic ponderosa pines that grow tall and full. There are many shades of green. From pale to dark green. Amongst the green is brown. Brown of bark, of branches and twigs. Birds are in the trees and on the ground.  There is food in many places. Cones from the pines and acorns from oaks. Rodents are also about, scurrying from bush to bush, keeping out of sight. Keeping safe, staying alive.

I can see the horizon along the edge of the mountain top. The shapes are irregular and varied. Up and down, sharp and easy. The peaks soar up and up. The vast cliffs are lit by the sun in rich colors. Changing as the day wears on. Starting out dark, growing lighter to a soft amber, then taking on more depth as evening comes to go to sleep in a rich warmth of deep oranges and reds.

To the east the plains head of in all directions, just flat and never ending to the eye. There is a haze in the afternoon heat that lifts from the ground and dances in the warmth that oozes from the earth. I can hear the rhythms of the plains, they are not the same as those of the mountains, but they are both beautiful in their own unique way.  Both have a beauty that can be heard if you take the time to listen. It is soft and still at times and loud and furious at others. You just need to open your mind and direct your ears to hear the music of the earth.


I am on the edge of the desert. It is hot and dry.  There is soft hot sand off into the distance. Plants and shrubs desperately holding on here and there, struggling to survive. A few rocks give shelter to insects and small geckos. The sand is soft, warm and reddish brown.  It moves in the afternoon wind. Changing shape as dunes diminish and reform at a new location. As the sun sets a sudden cold grips the ground. The air is brisk and I need shelter. I move along through the desert fringes to the foothills of a mountain range rising slowly from the desert. The mountain is ragged and dry in the lower foothills. Rising up to the lower peaks some trees appear.  As the mountain rises and rain and snow cultivate touches of color, touches of life. There is sound in the air. The sound of insects and birds, calling, mating, singing, warning of danger.

I climb to the hilltops and look back out at the barren dry sand below. It has a mysterious beauty that can only be seen by those that understand how to see, want to see it. Looking forward I see a lush green region of foothills and a open plain in the distance forming the horizon. There is much life here in the soft green of the mountain forest. All forms of life from bears and wild cats to deer and elk. Eagles and hawks, sparrows and swifts. Rabbits and mice, frogs and salamanders. Moths and butterflies in spring and summer.

I can see some riders on a distant ridge. Riding slowly to see the earth around them.  All of these places both dry and wet, both brown and green are of the earth. They are all keepers of pain and danger and keepers of beauty and joy. This is what it is all about, a balance of forces controlled by the earth.  We are mere observers given a chance to see, breath and live here for a small moment in time. We must leave no scars upon this earth when we are done. We must remind all other guests that they must treat this wondrous place with respect and care. We are merely guests here to observe and take care of a small piece of it during our stay.  We must give back and protect.

The vagrancy’s of man and his ego matter not.  We are all very temporary visitors on this earth and cannot ever control or posses it.  The earth grants us the right to be guests. We must be respectful guests.


Last night I listened to the wolves howl before I fell asleep. Calling out to the night. Telling their story of what happened earlier in the day.

In the morning, a soft grayness covered the landscape. The distant mountains that rimmed the valley were hidden for now. Slowly at first, the long fingers of the sun worked their way through the grayness tearing holes of light that bring color and form to the plants, rocks, hills and cliffs. Soon the grayness was totally stripped away revealing the sight, so familiar, but always commanding.

From where I sat the view was comforting, reassuring. Nothing significant had changed since yesterday, but small changes could be seen if you looked carefully. New leaves on plants and trees, buds and flowers that soon will be fruit, berries or seeds, birds building nests, insects scurrying about frantically gathering food. Some mornings if I was lucky, I would see a buck on the distant horizon, leading his herd to a new spot to graze. Soon I will see the bears come out from their winter hiding, getting fat on the abundance of food in valley. The activities of spring were all around. The snows had melted, except on the peaks of the mountains. The steep and rugged cliffs in the walls of the valley glimmered in the early light.  Their warm deep glow was unique to this valley.  The special combination of elements in the rocks and soil giving rise to the wonderful colors. I can stare at them for hours, seeing new shapes and different shadows, exposing subtle moving textures as the light changed.

The daily ritual, watching the first light appear, reinforced the basic truth I so deeply believed in. I am on this earth to care for it. Live on it, respect it. Take only what I need, nothing more. Put back whatever I can. Take care of it in my small way. The earth provided for me. Provided food, water and materials to make clothes, build a home, build a family and a community. This is the basic tenet of my life, of my community and my culture. We had lived this way as long as I or anybody else could remember. It was right, it was good.

Another day was now sliding by as the sun strolled across the sky. I have a lot of work to do before the darkness will once again creep over the valley and send me to rest.

Chris Crafford