I parked the car in the gravel drive, shoved a migraine pill into my pocket, and put my purse in the trunk. As I closed the trunk lid, my wedding band slipped toward my knuckle. My fingers had shrunken with a weight loss, and I’d been taking the ring off every morning, afraid to lose it down the shower drain. Afraid to lose it in the bed sheets, in the couch cushions, in the yard, at the grocery store. Afraid to forget where I’d put it when I took it off for safe-keeping. Gotta get this re-sized next week.
Juggling a lawn chair, I crunched down the driveway, past a chicken house, past a strutting turkey puffed up like a white-feathered beach ball, gobbling his machismo. Someone called my name, too far away for me to recognize her face. I waved, a big full-am wave, so she'd see my hello. The wedding ring flew off.
No, no. Not here.
It clinked against a rock. Thank goodness it came off on the driveway, instead of the weeds. I turned in place, at every turn, gently prodding the gravel with my toe, but the ground did not reward me with the glint of gold. On hands and knees, I swept the dirt aside, at first carefully, then faster in ever-widening circles. Nothing. I stood again, staring at the ground, my naked finger, the ground. Nature had sucked up My Precious.
The worst thing that could happen had just happened. The threat no longer loomed. The threat vanished with the ring. An unexpected sensation rushed into the emptiness that should have been filling up with grief. I was relieved.
But only for a second, because I was going to be late. I rushed down the hill to the tent where the class was meeting.
A couple dozen students of nature were crowded inside.
Our teacher, Sami, was saying, “Natural presence. Anyone ever had a peak experience in nature?”
Hands shot up, including mine. (I was lying.)
Sami said, “Natural Attraction. As you walk around today, notice which direction you’re attracted to.” The light in her eyes and the softness in her voice made it seem like she was describing a loved one. If I talked about rocks and trees, I was describing strangers.
She said, “Natural communication.”
Oh, god. I had to tell my husband I’d lost my wedding ring.
She said, “Natural release. Nature’s big enough to take whatever you want to release.”
Outside in the sun, she pointed. “There’s a trail over there behind that pile of brush. But meander wherever you’re drawn. No cell phone pictures. Be present.”
The property spread in an expanse of green field; occasional trees reached skyward. Behind me, the long gravel drive, my ring under a stone, or beside a blade of grass, perhaps already buried under a layer of dust. Goodbye, little ring. I took a few steps away from the tent, waiting to feel natural attraction. My classmates dotted the landscape, solitary shadow figures in a slow-motion migration toward the fence line. I turned in the opposite direction.
Beside the pond, a woman lay on a blanket. She blended into the scenery. I envied how quickly she’d found her spot. How strong her attraction must have been.
I curved widely around the pond, in search of the trail. A stand of trees grew on my left, and the open field sloped uphill to my right. I stepped one foot in front of the other, pausing frequently so natural attraction could locate me. A sparrow whistled. In the distance, a highway, a train.
I brought my foot down on a growth of thistle, breaking brittle stems in a satisfying snap. Around the bend, the weeds opened into a patch of dirt wide enough for one person to stand on. At the edge of it was the sheen of a mud puddle, small as my hand. I perked up. An attraction?
My pace sped up from meander to stride. Definitely an attraction.
The dirt patch lay at the foot of a tree, whose trunk was more than arms-width around.
I backed up to get a better look. Hand on my hips, feet planted, I leaned way back. Lime green leaves brushed a swath of blue sky.
Sami had said natural communication.
Tree didn’t answer.
“Thank you for the oxygen. Here’s some carbon dioxide for you.”
A couple passed by. A clump of women stood at the fence line. Another was climbing the hill off to my right. Another sat on a log. We were like a herd of cows spread across the field—quiet, chomping up nature, lying in the sun.
Sami had said natural release.
“Tree, I release to you … .”
“I release to you … migraines.”
Tree registered no surprise. It probably already knew Nature had wreaked havoc on my head. Torrential rains, then mid-summer stillness, then hard freeze, then gentle sprinkles, then bone-chilling fog—all in the opening weeks of April. I’d refilled the migraine prescription three times. It usually lasted a month. The pain was only part of the havoc. Headaches crept into my conversation more often than movies, books, and even my favorite political rants. Migraines had enslaved me. The possibility of freedom made me weepy.
I gave Tree a big drink of carbon dioxide, with a migraine chaser.
I put my hands on the rocky earth, a band of pale skin stark on my third finger. “Okay, Ground, whenever I bend over like this, send a message up through my palms. Remind me I released the migraines to your buddy over there.”
Sunlight glinted off a silken spider web strand across Tree's uppermost branches. A breeze blew right through my brain. I wouldn’t let hope creep in, but wouldn’t let doubt in either. If Nature took my migraines, the wedding ring was a small price to pay.