When one walks in the woods or climbs mountains, there is a wonderful unity of body, mind, and spirit. Hiking strengthens the legs, increases stamina, invigorates the blood, and soothes the mind. Away from the madness of society, one is freed to observe nature’s lessons.
Erosion. Gnarled roots. The carcass of a dead deer. A flight of swallows. The high spirals of hawks. Bladed reflections of rushing water. Just budding bare branches. Gray rock, cracked, shattered, and worn. A fallen tree. A lone cloud. The laughter of plum branches. Even a little circle of rocks beside the trail — who put them there, or did any hand arrange them, and no matter which, what are the secrets of that circle?
There are a thousand meanings in every view, if only we open ourselves to see the scripture of the landscape.
~ Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations
I feel limited by words and images today. I want to tell you about my walk in the fog early this morning, about how the fog was dark and creepy, light and airy, mysterious and magical, all at the same time. It was a frosty fog in which you could almost see ice crystals.
But I also want to share the experience of the chill of the fog and the way the breath freezes as you inhale and exhale, or the way the tips of the fingers burn with the cold dampness until you put them in your pockets to warm them up, and feel life and warmth slowly return.
It was like walking in the smoke of liquid nitrogen. I expected to freeze solid at any moment, forever standing in winter’s mist. I wish I had better words to describe it.
I can show you images, but the photos can’t convey the slick iciness of the surface of the boardwalks or how I had to walk carefully, almost sideways, to get out to the dock without falling. I didn’t step out on to the dock at all for fear that I’d end up slip-sliding into the creek. Instead, I peered around the corner from the boardwalk.
I can use words, but I want you to hear the sound of guns firing in the distance, the deep pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, like a string of firecrackers exploding one after another, some of them overlapping so you know there is more than one hunter, followed by the honking alarms of geese as they take flight and flee the scene. How far distant this is happening is hard to say because of the peculiar way sound is carried in the fog. It could be miles away. It could be just around the bend in the creek.
A picture will show you the blood I found on the driveway, but words might be better here because an image would be too gruesome. Nearby there was scat with fur in it. There are carnivores hunting the meadows. A fox or coyote. I haven’t seen or heard coyotes around here, but did read a news story about how they are becoming more common on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t seen or heard a fox here, either, but with all those bunny rabbits running around the meadows, one was bound to take up residence on the property eventually. Hawks and owls are wintering here, too. It’s no wonder we don’t see too much of the rabbits these days.
A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal. . . . The pause can occur in the midst of any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or seasons of our life. . . . We may pause in the midst of meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life to go on a retreat or to spend time in nature or to take a sabbatical. . . . You might try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing “no thing,” and simply notice what you are experiencing.
~ Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
Lately I’ve been pausing a lot, and even giving a great deal of thought to pausing. This is where I could announce that I might take a break from posting on my blog, but experience has taught me that as soon as I announce such a thing, my blogging mind will suddenly come up with all sorts of blog posts that I absolutely must sit down and write and share. Right Now.
Although the pull to pause and turn inwards is strong, habits have a siren song of their own that make it difficult to put them aside.
Instead of announcing, I will wait and see. Or pause and see. I figure if I pause for a moment, just a moment, the gap between breaths, between doing and not doing, will allow the inner music to grow louder than the songs of habit, and each moment paused may, or may not, lead to another moment of pausing and listening. Call it a slow down instead of a break.
Thank you for visiting, and rambling in the fog with me. As of this writing, the sun has been trying to burn of the persistent fog. I don’t know if we’ll see much of a sunset tonight, but the satellite images are showing a break in the clouds that might make it here in time. If you’re willing to brave the chilly dampness of the day, I’ll meet you out on the dock. Sunset is at 5:14 PM. Be early and wear an extra pair of gloves. Your fingers will thank you.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂