Heart of Ground

"The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too." - Chief Luther Standing Bear

There are times when he wanders far away from the voices of people and into the open land where the only voice is the quiet whispers of the wind.

He finds a place in the center of the wilderness and kneels, feeling the warmth of the sun-baked grass beneath his hands, the tickle of insects scurrying away from his fingertips.

He turns his face toward the sky and the shadow of the eagle, wings spread in his majestic flight.

There's a faint rustle from the grasses and his dark eyes shift imperceptibly, spotting the small rabbit peering curiously, tiny nose twitching as it tests the air.

When he closes his eyes to the sights he can hear the world, the heartbeat of the earth beneath his palms, the call of animals, the murmur of water somewhere not too far.

He can feel the wind and the sun against his skin, the waving grasses and leaves brushing him like a caress.

Sometimes he prays, others he lies against the earth and sleeps beneath the never ending sky, the vaulted ceiling more beautiful than the ornamental roofs of the town he grew up in. Today he simply sits and observes, a student listening to the teacher.

In Boonesborough he is white, around the campfire he is Cherokee, the two halves of his blood severed and divided down the middle like separated twins, each half able to exist independently and side by side. Only in the wilderness is he one man, complete and undivided, neither white nor Indian. Out here, and only here, he is whole.

The others do not see what he sees, feel what he feels, the pull to the wilderness, the empty void he feels without it.

A squirrel darts by, pausing to sniff his hand and he laughs out loud at the creature's expression, a sound of unbridled joy that sends birds erupting from the trees into flight.

Out here he has what they never do, a freedom they don't even realize they lack. The wilderness is getting smaller, the cities encroaching more and more. Someday even this may be gone.

He runs a hand over the earth. While there's breath in him he will fight for this place, this open space where he can understand the word "home".

Somewhere and some time there will be others like him, those who cannot breathe inside a cage. And when they are here, this land must be also.

Inspiration for this taken from the beautiful and poignant song "Man Walks Among Us" by Marty Robbins.