An Exercise in Grounding

Sometimes, my awareness of the world around me is heightened. I try to focus on all the things that surround me as I walk to class, sit on my porch or in my room with the window wide open.

I notice if the ground is hard or soft, if my step is jarring or sliding in slick mud. Wiggling my toes as they press against the damped fabric that dewdrops clung to.

I look up. The tips of trees are burning red and orange, and the leaves that have fallen are consumed by brittle brown. I notice if the sky is a rippling sheet, gray and hanging low or if the clouds are stretched and think, hardly there against the blue sky.

I hear branches and leaves shivering as critters scurry unseen. I focus on the calls of birds, twiddling, tweeting, cooing as they float in the air with gusts of wind, lifting up and fading quietly.

I remember one day last year when I had totally forgotten how to be grounded, aware. I was in the quad between classes, crying and distraught for reasons I can’t recall. It had felt like everything was just crumbling around me. I couldn’t remember how to breathe or stay calm.

I stood under this stand of pine trees that are an island in the sea of green grass and rogue coniferous trees. My tears had subsided and I gazed across the quad unseeingly.

Something moving caught my eye. A huge hawk alighted onto a branch in the big oak tree next to Albion College’s library. I don’t think I made a conscious choice, but I started walking towards it with phone in hand. B-lining across the quad, cutting in front of the students who stuck to sidewalks like glue.

I glanced around but no one else seemed to notice the bird. I walked softly as I got closer and stood underneath the branch where the hawk rested. My first instinct was to take a picture with my phone, capture the moment forever, but as soon as I opened up the camera, my phone died.

“Hi.” I whispered to it. I felt silly, but then its big yellow eyes flicked down to look at me. Its feathers were brown and gold, speckled with white and sepia; they were fluffed up and relaxed.

I stayed under the tree with the hawk for a while. It had turned it’s eyes to something farther away, but didn’t fly away either. As I walked to class, I kept glancing back—it was still there in the knobby branches.

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