I call him Mr. C.
Twilight meant it would be quiet on the wood path. The trees and wild shrubbery were showing off their multitude of shades of green while filling my nose with a parade of different fragrances. Birds occasionally allowed me to soak in their beauty for a few moments before flying off.
My walking boots crunched on scatterings of fallen twigs left over from the winter storms. Nature promised to heal if I opened myself to her, so I made my way deeper into the woods, looking for the perfect spot to sit.
Gaia has always offered herself to me. As kids, we stayed outside all day in the woods and the caves or played on the rolled bales of hay scattered among the cow dung in the fields. We were present to the adventure and allowed it all to unfold. Nature still touches that innocence of my youth, so I turn to her when I’m in pain.
The trunk of the tree was about three foot in circumference, and the patches of grass and sedges mixed with sprinklings of sweet coltsfoot offered softness. I sat leaning against her trunk, I closed my eyes and absorbed all the energy she provided. I could feel the uneven bumps of her bark on my back as I ran my fingers over a patch of moss on the ground and felt its bouncy softness. Gratitude filled my heart as I slowly began to feel relief from the dull ache that filled my body.
I’m not sure how long I sat there with my eyes closed, but the morning light began to filter through the trees and gently tapped my eyelids. I felt better; it seemed the aches and pains had dissipated. Gaia whispered, “let go of suffering.” She explained that she would absorb my energy and redistribute it to be recycled, somehow cleansing it; transforming it back to pure energy, neither negative nor positive.
I was deep in contemplation as I traced my steps on the mud path back to the clearing towards my car. I knew the unrelenting migraine was over, but my mind burst through and insisted on talking about how hard life was. I argued back that after this amazing healing, gratitude should be dominant. But I weakened at my mind’s insistence that we moved on to solve the next problem. Where am I going with my life? How will I get there? What if…?
The shadow of my hiking boot caused a centipede to scurry out of my path. I kept walking, not paying much attention, but happy that Mr. C narrowly escaped being squashed.
Then, a little further down the path, was another centipede, but this time it spoke.
“Turns out,” he said, “that you don’t actually pay much attention to the cause and effect of behavior”.
“What do you mean?” I asked, immediately recognizing the echo of my own mind.
“Well, you seem so confused about which way to go most of the time” he stated flatly, “you’re always worried about not making the right decision, and you’ve only got two legs to deal with”. He paused as if he had just stated the obvious, and then continued when I stared blankly.
“I have many legs, which, FYI, I never have exactly 100 legs; you humans just made that up based on old language. I have many, that’s true, but the amount can vary greatly”.
I couldn’t really care how many legs he had; he was still a bit creepy crawly for my taste.
“I can imagine that’s a lot of legs to coordinate,” I said, hoping that would satisfy his seemingly need to be appeased. I couldn’t think of anything else to say to him.
He didn’t answer. I could sense he wanted some sort of sympathy for his many leg dilemma, so I made an enquiry.
“How do you synchronize all your legs to move in the direction you want to go, and avoid getting all muddled up, you know, one leg tripping over the other?” I asked.
I had a flash image of his legs getting tangled when he wanted to change direction, and that’s how he ended up exposed on the human’s footpath instead of under a rock.
“I imagine it’s a lot to organize, and it must be tough for you to get where you want to go,” I continued.
“Well,” he looked at me with his tiny ocelli that formed something like an eye, which is only capable of seeing in black and white…my first clue,
“I just place one leg in front of the other. Each leg touches the next and sends an impulse to move the next one,” he said matter-of-factly. He continued,
“I operate on instinct and natural behavior. The laws of nature work with me…you?”
I didn’t respond to his attempt at sarcasm and just stood there, so he kept talking
“I’m even willing to sacrifice a few of my back legs if I get caught by a bird because I know I can survive and adapt. That’s the most important thing, isn’t it?”
It felt like he was questioning me like Yoda.
He didn’t bother to wait for my answer and made a 180 degree turn from the front, and the rest of his legs followed accordingly. Then he was gone. He had crawled under a rock where it was dark and moist and for him; home.
In that short encounter, he showed me one of the secrets of life.
Somehow, it didn’t seem fair that people often used the expression “go back under the rock you crawled out from” usually meaning you don’t know what you’re talking about when clearly Mr. C was perceptive.
I decided I would look at my problem like the centipede when he was caught by prey. His lost legs were his sacrifice for freedom. The scars I have are my personal sacrifice for being permitted the opportunity to change. My innate wisdom can be used the same way Mr. C uses his instinct.
I will place one foot in front of the other to get to where I need to go. Each step I take will instinctually create the next one, and I’ll move toward my goals. If I misstep or get disfigured by a predator, I can still turn and walk the other way. Even if parts of me are missing, I can always find my rock.
Mr. C and all his legs were gone, but he had helped me see a simple truth.
I quietly thanked him for his wisdom as I reached the parking lot and drove back home feeling renewed.