Words act as a compass. Place speech serves literally to enchant the land; to sing it back into being and to sing one’s being back into it.
~ Robert Macfarlane
I’ve been out walking again. I know, there’s nothing new about that but, maybe, there is. You see, I was getting a little lazy about stepping outside. I was also getting lazy in my photography practice, leaving the camera at home most of the time last year. And then, there are those New Year’s resolutions. Did you make any this year? Every year I resolve not to make resolutions but somehow they creep in anyway, in spite of my best intentions.
I decided to try the One Million Step challenge again. That’s one million steps in one hundred days, or 10,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps, as we’ve recently learned, is not necessary for health and longevity. NPR and The Atlantic both had articles last year debunking the idea that you need 10,000 steps a day. (You can find the NPR article here.) In fact, studies in women show that you max out at about 7,500 steps when it comes to the benefits.
So. Why strive (or stride) for 10,000 steps a day? I like this particular challenge because I’ve noticed I do better with big goals when it comes to exercise. It’s important that I avoid too much (that leads to failure and/or injury) but it’s equally important that the challenge makes me stretch in some way. In this case, I’m working towards a bigger goal, wanting to do some long distance hiking and walking this year. I probably say that every year. I think 2020 might be the year I actually do it. There are several reasons why I think so but one of the most important is that M has been joining me on some of my walks. That means I’m not training alone. My hiking partner is training with me, and that indicates that he’s decided to hop on board the long distance hiking goal with me.
Light does not use syntax. Robins do not speak in syllables as we would recognize them. And so, language is always late for its subject in nature. I’m fascinated by language’s affordance when it comes to thinking about and shaping our relations with place and what we might uneasily call nature; I’m also interested in the binds that it places us within.
~ Robert Macfarlane
What does any of this have to do with Place? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I keep coming back to the year that I took up the challenge to get outside every day for a year (and blog about it). A summary can be found here: 365 Life in the Bogs Get Outdoors Challenge. Going outside and walking the same trails almost every day for one year taught me a lot about where I was living. I learned about the daily rhythm and changes, some so small that I would never have noticed them if I hadn’t gotten out every day to see them. I learned about the seasons, the beings we shared the land with, and even about the land (and pond) itself. I gratefully witnessed things that I would never have seen if I hadn’t been out there.
In taking on the idea of Rewilding (which may or may not be one of my words for the year, or at least a word for now), I think it helps to take on the challenge of getting to know where I live, getting to know place but also getting to know my place on this planet. I live in a different time and a different place than when I did my year-long challenge. (I can’t believe it’s been almost ten years already since I did the great outdoors challenge!) It helps to go out and listen, to ask the questions about what life and what the earth wants from us or how we fit in (or should fit in).
For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
I believe that working with the word Listen or Listening last year will help me in forming this connection to place. Nature speaks, quite loudly at times. I have learned that all we need to do is be willing to listen. Throughout my year of listening I began a semi-regular practice of posting a photo of the sunrise on Instagram, usually with a little essay about what I heard or saw or sensed in some way. I start with listening. Who is out here with me? This morning, there were crows and northern flickers and another bird I was unable to identify. There was the sound of an airplane high overhead. As the light from the rising sun moved across the landscape, a flicker flew overhead. The golden light of the sunrise was reflected on the bottom of her wings, making her radiant. A golden bird calling, flying, swooping towards the east. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
Moving along to a not totally unrelated subject… I’ve completed my #12daysofnatureomens (explanation in this post, in case you missed it). Here is the list, with a brief description of meanings or symbolism:
- December 26 (January): Crow — The secret magic of creation is calling.
- December 27 (February): Red Fox — Feminine magic of camouflage, shapeshifting, and invisibility.
- December 28 (March): Squirrel — Activity and preparedness.
- December 29 (April): White-Tailed Deer — Gentleness and innocence — gentle luring to new adventure.
- December 30 (May): Snow Goose — The call of the quest and travels to legendary places.
- December 31 (June): Myrtle Warbler — The expression of self and ideas, the enjoyment of life, socialization, movement, and expansion.
- January 1 (July): Oak — Strength, resistance, knowledge, honor, wisdom, and life-affirming.
- January 2 (August): Clouds — The higher self. White clouds represent stability, inner consciousness, or goals.
- January 3 (September): Chickadee — Truth expressed in a manner that heals, balances, and opens the perceptions. (Cheerful and truthful expression.)
- January 4 (October): Tree Frog — Transformation through water and sound. Healing, cleansing, rebirth.
- January 5 (November): Bald Eagle — Illumination of spirit, healing, and creation.
- January 6 (December): Northern Flicker (or, Golden Bird) — New rhythm of growth and healing love (flicker). The wisdom of aging, alchemy, transition from ego to higher Self, transcendence (golden bird).
If omens are to be believed, it looks like an interesting year ahead.
Since we are currently in January, if you’re interested in learning more about Crow you can find a good description of its symbolism here. Ted Andrews’ book, Animal Speak, is also a good source of information. His entry about Crow is quite long.
I reckon that’s enough of the woo-woo stuff and probably enough from me, too. Thank you so much for joining me on another meander. Most of the images are from the first day hike that M and I took out at Jane’s Island State Park. There are more I hope to share with you soon. In the meantime, let’s meet out at the Point for sunset. Sunset is scheduled for 4:58 PM. It’s relatively warm today (low 50’s), with a light wind. Still, it can be chilly by the water, especially once the sun slips below the horizon. Hat, gloves, and coat are recommended.
Be good, be kind, be love. ♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,216) Sunrises, and the surprises that come along when I take the time to go out and look. 1,217) The mythical golden bird coming to life for a brief few moments this morning in the form of a northern flicker. 1,218) Sitting with the great-grandmother cedar tree this afternoon, tracing her twists and turns, her outside scars, marveling at the way she absorbed the barbs and wire of a barbed wire fence that once went through that area. 1,219) Challenges and a new way of looking at things that some challenges present. 1,220) A Zoom chat with a wonderful young woman from Switzerland this morning.