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  • Mj Pettengill

Live Free or Die


Sunshine in the woods, Spring CCO

Today was a grounding day. I knew that it was necessary to spend time in the woods, but how deep and how far I needed to go to restore and replenish what threatens to fall away, I did not know.

I went out the back door from the kitchen. I like that door because it connects me to the woods almost immediately. My bird feeding stations are in that vicinity, as are the trails commonly traveled by our wild friends. There are patches of old snow scattered here and there, and the vernal pool is completely thawed. 

I’d like to think that the birds know me as I do them. Once I go out (in my orange hoodie), they flit about while I add little bits of random food to their feeders. The chippies and red squirrels dash about, while the grays run off like well-versed robbers. Little do they know that with me, they are not thieves, but they have become accustomed to fleeing the scene.

I had a few goals. The first is to not really have a plan. Then, I would find one of my sunning boulders and sit. I always take note of the general condition of my shared world. I had gone out the previous day and collected many freshly fallen white pine boughs. There were more. I picked one up and stripped a twig for chewing. The pine sap is rich now, so it is flavorful and packed with nutrients.

I was delighted to see an abundance of wintergreen carpeting the forest floor. I do not require them at this time, so I give thanks and acknowledgment and move on. New mullein plants are already thriving and collecting moisture that appears like jewels on their velvety leaves. 

I found a nice boulder and sat. The sun was incredible, like water splashing on a parched plant; I drank it up. For many years, I used to try to sneak out with my recorder to capture various birdsongs, such as the hermit thrush and vireo. There were challenges. Other than massive swarms of mosquitoes or black flies, there seemed to always be sounds of human activity. I live in the wilds, but for some reason, there is no escape from the beeping of trucks in reverse, airplanes, or cars zooming from the village towards Wonolancet or Tamworth. 

Today, it was quiet. This is not typical for the middle of a weekday. I enjoyed the solitude but thought about what we have had to endure to attain it. Like I have mentioned throughout my writing, I am a hermitess, that woman in the woods. Being alone and in quietude is a chosen and preferred lifestyle. It is the bigger picture that has given cause for concern. It is sorting through the idea that as Americans, as cavalier, maverick types, taking precautions to the level that is required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, is too demanding. Our wishy-washiness and determination to live free or die, comes with a high price.

It is my prayer that people will follow the guidelines of caring for the health of those at risk and to maintain a healthy balance so that we may find our way through this.

As I was sitting on the rock, thinking, chewing on the pine twig, and about to dream, I was interrupted. It was hard to imagine that I heard the voice of one, single wood frog coming up from the vernal pool. That solo, that wonderfully simply sound, brought about incredible joy. To me, this, along with the peepers, are such an optimistic expression of Our Mother.

I decided that it would be more effective to actually sit on the earth. I did not want to be separated, even by a large granite rock. So, I slid down and leaned against it. I was wearing clunky snow boots, yoga pants, and a tank top. This is the time of year that anything goes, even more than other times. When you live as I do, your wardrobe means whatever works. No fashion statements going on here.

I closed my eyes and listened to the wood frog, knowing that it was pointless to try to sneak up on him to record. The second you even think that, they stop. They are intuitive and stubborn in their resistance to being recorded. I have managed to catch them off and on over the years, for I am stubborn too.

After a few moments, I heard a buzzing. I assign various voices to bees. This was a baritone. I was surprised to hear it so soon. I immediately wondered what it would do for food, and I then let it go, Our Mother knows. The bee hovered close to me before going on its way.

The experience wouldn’t have been complete if I didn’t see a thick, brown spider walking in my direction. My initial response is to recoil, but I have come a long way. For years now, I have a spider cup in my studio and capture them and throw it outside, cup and all. I do understand how amazing spiders really are. They are just very different from us.

Many years have passed since I was bitten by a brown recluse. That was then. This is now. I learned from that event. I even had a resident spider living in my plant drying area in the studio during the previous season. I was sad when it died in the fall. 

After I watched the spider walk towards the stone wall and the bee head for where the gardens lie in wait, I decided that my grounding time was over for the day. As soon as I stood up, the wood frog stopped, waiting to see if I was going to try to sneak up on him.


I recommend that you take the time to go out for a walk in a quiet, non-public area where there are trees and plants, the wilder, the better. 

When I came inside, I felt renewed. There is so much to be grateful for. During our time in the cave—the proverbial wombmay we re-think our place on this beautiful planet. May we consider each and every action and the consequences. May we rise up to a new level of being.


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