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Earth Tones

As I watched the last ferry leave Cape Lookout off the coast of North Carolina last year and the last of the day tourists headed back to the mainland, I felt a euphoria. Literally, I would be almost completely alone that night and the next morning. I would be able to watch the sun drop into an orange blaze, drowned by the dark blue of the ocean alone. I would hear no voices, no dogs, nothing but the surf pounding the shore with the shrieks and calls of shorebirds as they gathered their last meals for the day. I would have this wonderful gift completely to myself.

I felt the same way on Cumberland Island and in other isolated places within nature. Sitting alone, but not really alone.

Because there is something new every second. A new green, slightly brighter and more yellow than the deep and bluish one we saw just a few minutes earlier. A new sound, something we can't identify and are left imagining what it could be. Unlike our lives in the city or in our homes, where the same old tired sounds are replayed again and again...the horns, the engines, the barks, the ringtones and mechanical, man-made inventions. Trying desperately to stimulate us and amaze us with new sounds, which are new when we first hear them, but become depressingly similar as the day wears on. There is safety in what we know. We know that red means stop and green means go. We know that hearing a child laughing makes us feel good. We know that the sound of an ambulance siren makes us feel sad.

I know that there are only so many Mozart pieces I can listen to, because he died and stopped composing. The Beatles broke up and even though I love "Hey Jude," there are only so many times I can hear it before it also becomes tired. And I know that even though there is a lot of beautiful music out there, the sounds of nature seem almost infinite.

We go to paint stores and search for "earth tones." We think they are original, but they are only a glimpse of the tones that represent the earth. We paint our indoor walls with outside colors. They bring peace to us and yet we don't understand why.

I remember when I was a child how everything was a mystery. Everything was new...even things made by man. But, 58 years later, I find these things boring at best. I find our TV shows with actors recycled from shows that I saw years ago. Producers add more blood, more violence, more profanity, yet it is still the same old story. I hear "new" music with the same melody as songs I heard years ago. We can only do so much with what we have in our human world.

But, when I am alone in the woods, on the beach or a meadow, when there is nothing but the varied and diverse sounds and smells of nature, I am stimulated. My brain awakes! What will I see? What will I hear? What will I smell? Every time it is different. Yes, there are those regulars, those sounds and colors I have known since childhood; the blues and blacks of a blue jay, the low-toned call of a bullfrog or the sound of the wind in the trees above. They comfort me. Yet, as I walk along, who knows what I may see? It could be as simple as a delicate swallow-tailed butterfly, flying with graceful beauty in its search for nectar from the blooming flower. I may look down and almost step on a box turtle, making its way across the path in front of me with slow, but certain progress. I may become startled by the squawk of a great blue heron as it flies away, seeing me, before I see him. It is endless. There is no rulebook or order to it either. To me, that is the most refreshing part of the entire experience. There is no Hallmark TV drama plot which is predictable beyond prediction. In fact, there is no drama. It is life which goes on with our without us. To nature there is no virus. There is no economy or a government to control it. No propaganda. No gunfire. Everything has order in what we would call disorder. And to me, that brings peace.

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