Arriving at the spot, the place where I and the machine part was anticipated; it is a known junction, a place where we, as wild animals must part with our creature comforts. Gliding through the grass down the short slope to the edge of the trees, I couldn’t help but notice the dominance of noise coming from the highway in front of me – a four lane of reasonable size, with reasonable amounts of traffic on this, the Labor Day weekend holiday. So predominant was the noise that I longed for the silence of the trees, the whispering of the wind as it coalesced through moving branches, pleasantly disturbed leaves hovering over solemn ground; dirt. Having experienced this trail before, I knew ahead of me the wild noises of nature would again resume and that silence would be an off-key to the ever-present noise of nature. Walking faster, I found myself slowly sifting through the sound – able to channel the noise of the large trees moving over the noise of the large trucks somewhere to my rear.
I am unaware of exactly the transition happens – and it’s not like a faucet being shut off, but more of a downpour to a trickle to a droplet – occurring but not exactly easily measurable. And at this point, I found my speed decreasing, my need for a silently supportive space having come into existence. For this blissful place, surrounded by green and earthen tones on all sides, I was grateful. The trail continued to wind up into the range – gaining elevation on the macro scale, though feeling more variance in the undulations at present in the micro.
One reason I truly enjoy this trail, this getaway, is the amount of water one crosses on their way deeper into the mountains. I like to say that I’m a water baby, bound by the moon, and that the presence of certain bodies of water have a swaying influence on me. I’ve also been called crazy before, and the presence of this flowing medium always seems to bring me back to my element; home. Pausing at one of these flowing side streams, I could not resist the thirst that formed in my throat, and in bowing down to sip the clearness below I found myself nearly flat against the ground, hovering through muscular tension – the physical body – above the quaint but well-defined flow of water. Finding immediate relief in its quick quenching, I rose, adjusted my glasses back onto the bridge of my nose, and continued up the narrow path.
Walking in the woods, surrounded by the alive and breathing beings of the forest I sometimes find myself to be in a moving meditation. While my thoughts may need to surface and issue from my lips as I walk along, there eventually comes a point when I exert mental influence over my thoughts and cease to speak/process; instead, I find myself focused on everything, and nothing at the same time – alert, oriented, eyes open – though not speaking – just being. As if being shaken from a deep dream, one where you have imagined things beyond the normalcy of life, I quickly detected a pulsing body of noise, almost like an angry swarm of hornets approaching. What racket! Snapping back to my comprehension of the world and all its encompassing things, I realized the plight: a gang of leather and chrome bikers rumbling their way up the paved grade, ground by machines hoping to exert a tameness to the wilds, on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. Such nuisance to me in my semi-wilderness state. However, this is a shared space on the overall, and as much as this audible racket disturbed my senses, I acknowledged that that was how these riders of the obnoxious experienced pleasure – call it their own form of moving mediation.
Thankful that the 15 seconds of silence-shattering noise had passed, I continued on, across another larger drainage where the local trail club had volunteered their time and efforts to build an impressive log bridge. Realizing I had brought my rain jacket out of concern for the elements, as well as my hat, I paused on the side of the trail to temporarily lighten my load. I wanted to feel light, and carrying these items sans pack was appealing to me. Carrying onward, free to let my arms and hands swing in the gentle breeze, I found my focus once again to be in the oversized world around me. Eventually, after a few off-slope traverses, past another small drainage of water, running with a cool elementalness, I came to a tall oak tree. It did not seem any more remarkable than the trees surrounding it, however, it was larger, and therefore, in my perception, older than most in this area. Pausing beneath its hulking mass I looked up the erect trunk, craning my neck higher yet, and allowed my presence to be silent. In some part of my subconscious I could hear the conversation of men, discussing the amount of board feet a species of this size would produce; thoughts of another time – perhaps not too distant. Acknowledging this observation at the level of my own consciousness, I found, in focusing, that I did not see that same conclusion directly before my eyes – instead, I found a long and tall, living and breathing being. Just as alive as I, with, what I thought, an inherit right to be.
Waxing onward, past the romanticism of individual species rights, I reached a point in my short journey to turn back. This is sometimes the hardest part – just when I want to keep spiraling into the world of nature – the wilds – I acknowledge the unprepared nature of my current state, and silently promise to return. Reminding me of the little boy from The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), who promises to return to the great giving tree. Eventually, I wound my way back to where I’d come: the spot at the bottom of the ridge where I’d left my belongings; the drainages with their liquid mediums issuing downhill in a gravity-fed manner; the undulations in all their up and down-ness; the quickening of my mind going from wilderness time to that more of the artificial man-made sort. Thoughts of what time it could be drifted into my thoughts, I had to work this afternoon and there were errands to run yet in town. Surely in those thoughts, distracting in their nature, I missed something in the present – a tree dancing, almost as if it was waving, greeting me, having seen me walk past before. Only in this reflection can I acknowledge that I missed something – though, I truly gained something as well; evidence in motion through this written recollection.
For this space I am grateful. I am also grateful for the ability to recall and share – to have been present in those moments, experiencing something greater and grander than my creative consciousness alone. For as much as I enjoy the marvels and comforts of the world of clocks and toilets, I feel far more clear-headed in the world of the wilds. So to you in your day, perhaps accessing the at-large through this digital medium, I hope you are able to leave things behind for even just a number of clarifying minutes or hours to embrace the natural world, arms wide, chest and heart open, as it wishes to be. Grateful to be experiencing this life in its current exactness.
Love and thanks to many and all,