Mud Lake Trees


"The tailorbird lives in the depths of the forest but uses no more than a single branch to make its nest."

Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi, The Essential Writings

The Bird

My son and I once took a nighttime tour in the Daintree Rainforest on the northeast coast of Australia.

Our guide had us hold our flashlights against our foreheads near eye-level as we walked. This allowed us to better see the light reflected off the eyes of the jungle critters staring back at us.

I had hoped to see a cassowary, a shy flightless bird, but we mostly saw tree frogs and smaller birds.

The birds we came upon delicately rested on the ends of tender vines that were attached to tree branches. In the darkness, they appeared to be sleeping in mid air. They slept in this manner for protection. If a green tree python or other tree snake approached, the vine would vibrate, alerting the bird well before the snake got too close.

"When the beaver drinks from the river, it takes only enough to fill its belly."

Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi, The Essential Writings

The Dog

My dog likes vegetables. Tomatoes, spinach and especially carrots. Of late, when offered a baby carrot she will take it and then keep it in her mouth. She doesn't chew or swallow. Just guards her carrot from predators.

Her record for this bizarre behavior is four hours. Four hours of not being able to drink water, yawn, bark or even comfortably rest.

She finally decided to eat the carrot when she saw a piece of spinach on the floor and realized her hoarding was preventing her from enjoying other goodies.

The Choice

Who are we most like? The unencumbered birds who light upon the nearest vine to sleep and can relocate at a moment's notice.

Or are we like my dog Maggie who holds onto a carrot for dear life, not willing to enjoy it but equally terrified someone will take it from her?

-J.D. Stein | April 2014


Maggie ‒ Hailey, Idaho

"It is not only the physical body that can be blind and deaf; the faculty of understanding can also be so."

‒ Zhuangzi