The voices retune

when I close my eyes

when I follow my breath

when I say thank you

when I place my finger tips together

to be a small basket to fill.


Then the hemlocks nod further,

the cedars bow lower,

and in ebbs grace,

a bit like the mosses opening to the mist

that is everywhere and nowhere

but now has reformed into droplets,

into something that would seem too soft to hear,

but which I realize is the percussion of this forest

the beat that lulls me,

nets me,

until I come back

– not awaken –

but come back

after being absorbed by the mosses who,

and I mean who,

ask for so little.


Calm comes in the voice

of waves on the sand



In wind through needles




By stones rubbing in water’s




By sunlight on soil




And by the mosses

who transform all edges

into roundness

into what feels like kindness,

into where we become the same kind,

the same kin.

John Bates is the author of seven books on the Northwoods and Upper Midwest, and a contributor to four others. He has worked as a state forest naturalist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and owns Trails North, a naturalist guide service. He also conducts outdoor classes for Nicolet College, the University of Wisconsin Extension, and the North Lakeland Discovery Center. For twenty years he has written a biweekly column, “A Northwoods Almanac” for the Lakeland Times in Minocqua, Wisconsin.