Notation in hiking journal: July 26, 2020 9:27AM Going to be a hot day
I’ve been hiking a while. Long enough for the chill of the early morning to fade. When I awoke like usual close to 5 AM, my upper back between my shoulder blades and the back of my neck were already tense.
Tense muscles make for a tight mind. These early morning hours are my time to read, or write. Lately, it’s been reading. I devour book after book. It’s been some time since I’ve done this. So far, I am not satiated. The books feed my writing, my writing feeds the expansion of my mind. Books are essential.
This morning losing myself in a book did not happen. Thoughts swirled, round and round. Old thoughts. Maybe they rose from deep inside like frost rises from the earth in the warmth of spring. Cups of coffee disappeared fast, this morning. Coffee is essential.
So I took myself off for a hike, around a favorite butte. Deliberately, I set off up a steep path. Hiking and the land always bring clarity. Hiking is essential.
The thoughts kept buzzing. I hiked faster. My heart and lungs thumped and gasped in time with the thoughts. I did not know I was in this good of condition. Air is essential.
On top of one of the butte’s foothills, I paused to watch two hawks glide through the blueblue sky. One flew clockwise, the other the opposite. They scribed the sign of infinity.
The thoughts settled, a bit.
I hiked on.
Down, then. Through masses of standing stones, juniper trees, and the dusty trail.
I jumped over and down a boulder, stepped around a corner and felt watched. Full stop. Above and to my left, I was reflected in the round eye of a cottontail, motionless on the ledge of two boulders. I watched back. In that dark eye, I saw infinity.
I wonder what it saw in my eye.
The cottontail scuttled off after a time, behind the rocks.
I gazed higher, where the rocks and sky met. Three small sage brushes, cool accents against the warm umbers of the rocks beckoned. They stood as silver sentinels. They seized my eyes, then my mind.
Cool silver in all this heat. Cool silver, random placement, but three. Past. Present. Future. My lungs filled, emptied. My heart slowed. My mind, at last, stilled.
The frost-thoughts rose through the strata of my body and melted from the surface of my skin. Tight muscles softened. Muscles hold the stories of our lives.
Three silver sages. Not human sages, but plant sages. Plant sages that were sage. Word play, one of my favorite past-times.
Every time I walk where sage grows, I stop at least once and cup both hands around the feathery end of a branch of sage. Then, I raise my cupped hands up the length of the branch and bring them to my nose. I breathe in, deep. The scent, sharp and piquant, silvery and dusty green, diffuses throughout my entire body. Sage is essential.
Later at home, I look up the etymology of the word “sage”. I knew it was a plant, one of my favorites, as well as meant a wise person.
Sage (adjective): “wise,” c. 1300 (late 12c. as a surname), from Old French sage “wise, knowledgeable, learned; shrewd, skillful” (11c.), from Gallo-Roman *sabius, from Vulgar Latin *sapius, from Latin sapere “have a taste, have good taste, be wise,” from PIE root *sap- “to taste” (see sap (n.1)). Meaning “characterized by wisdom” is from 1530s.
Or, sage (noun): kind of herb (Salvia officinalis), early 14c., from Old French sauge (13c.), from Latin salvia, from salvus “healthy” (from PIE root *sol- “whole, well-kept”). So called for its healing or preserving qualities (it was used to keep teeth clean and relieve sore gums, and boiled in water to make a drink to alleviate arthritis). In English folklore, sage, like parsley, is said to grow best where the wife is dominant. In late Old English as salvie, directly from Latin. Compare German Salbei, also from Latin.
sage (noun):”man of profound wisdom,” mid-14c., from sage (adj.). Originally applied to the Seven Sages — Thales, Solon, Periander, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias, and Pittacus. Etymology source: https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=sage
The notation that sage was said to grow best where the wife was dominant caused me to laugh out loud, even though I was alone in front of my laptop. The definition of the noun “sage” mentioned “man of profound wisdom.” What about women of profound wisdom? Obviously, the plants knew better than people as they grew best in the presence of strong women.
But, humor aside, back on the trail gazing at the three silver sages, as my old muscle bound stories released and rose away, I had found myself thinking more of silver than of sage.
Silver is cool. Silver is moonlight. I cannot live without the wash of moonlight. Moonlight is essential.
Silver is the ribbon of a river as the sun falls below the line of the horizon. Silver is an ancient precious metal. I used to like gold better, but now I crave silver. Maybe because it is appearing strand by strand in my hair these days and I like to think it is wisdom-silver rather than age-silver.
After additional searching, I learned more about silver. No wonder silver called to me. Silver is a mirror to our soul, and helps us to see ourselves. Some of the qualities silver represents are unconditional love, mystic visions, kindness, and sensitivities. Silver may draw negative energy from the body and replace it with positive energy. https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-silver/
All of these qualities of silver appealed to me. But, as I stood amongst the rocks that day and looked up at the three silver sages, all I knew was that it was as if each sage sent an exquisite tiny silver arrow toward my heart. Each arrow found its mark with a sting that soon spread over my heart as a vibration of awareness. My hands clasped one another over my heart to hamper this astonishing wound-gift from the sages from escaping. Not to worry, though. As my hands fell away, it remained. I know my heart was silver, for a time, as I hiked on. I could feel its cool, fluid beats.
My shoulders settled away from my ears and the muscles in my neck ceased their complaints. The silver spread from my heart over my mind, cool and soothing. It seemed my mind took a deep breath too, just as my lungs did. The silver skin of my heart cooled the air as it passed by, in then out of my lungs, and my breath carried away the last of the melt water from the frost of tense old thoughts.
Some mornings I wake with tenseness already in my body. I think of the cottontail with eyes of infinity. Of the three silver sages, and the arrows and my silver heart. The tightness melts. Silver is essential.
“three silver sages” and the eye of the cottontail. You have gifted me these wonderful images to release old tensions and memories. And a truly beautiful piece of writing. Thanks Jenny.
Thank you for taking the time to read and write your lovely words back:) I think about sage and the cottontail’s eye also, now when old stories invade my body. You are so welcome for any way the words in the essay can bring ease to yourself. ❤️
What an interesting morning and hike you had!
I don’t have the chance to hike around here and I certainly don’t have your landscapes but like you, I « race » to still my mind. I get very active and until something feels like settling (yes, old thoughts, old memories still alive) I won’t stop.
I never thought of sage or silver that way. Sage and wise women. Qualities of silver. I’ll keep my eyes more open next time I go on my walk; you never know what awaits you around the corner?
We sure do not know what will be around the next corner! There is generally more there than the casual glance reveals. I love how you keep moving until something settles. It is important, isn’t it? And it can take some time. But the peace and space it brings is so worth it. Sage and silver…that sounds like a poem might be lurking there:) Thank you for your words. It means much that you take the time to comment, and you always find the essence of the essay. ❤️
Jenny, I always enjoy your stories because they are filled with life. The life out there and your connection to it.
Ha ha! Yes maybe a poem is lurking there, you are right, they can be everywhere in everything. And thank god they still come to me despite all the challenges life is sending my way. Take good care and please keep sending words our way.
With love xx
Isabelle, thank you again, dear friend. I will continue working on the words☺️. It is good to hear your words are finding their way home to you. And take extra care of your self?