There is an art to wandering. If I have a destination, a plan – an objective – I’ve lost the ability to find serendipity. I’ve become too focused, too single-minded. I am on a quest, not a ramble. I search for the Holy Grail of particularity, and miss the chalice freely offered, filled full to overflowing.
~ Cathy Johnson, On Becoming Lost
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going à la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walking
Our crocuses and lawn flowers are blooming. Trees are budding. The weather continues its roller coaster ride of warmth followed by cold. It hasn’t been too cold, though, and there is hope for the budding trees and shrubs and flowers in that. Yesterday brought us 2.5 inches of rain, gale force winds, and fish swimming in the woods. The flooding was higher than usual, but that’s been the case lately. I don’t suppose there is a “usual” anymore, but who’s to say for sure? Certainly not me. I’m often surprised, often delighted, by the variations in life. Maybe the only reason we think of “usual” is because we fail to notice the subtleties, the tiny changes that abound. That’s what life is, after all. Constant, inevitable, change.
The flooding and gale-force winds tore up the boardwalk to the dock along with taking out some slats of wood from the dock itself. I noticed today that the dock has quite a lean to it. I don’t know if we can fix it. M seems to think so, but M isn’t bothered much by the slant of the dock or the fact that we might someday go sliding into the creek if it gets any worse. His suggestion is to just hang on to the bench. He’s cute that way. (In other words, we’ll fix it, or get it fixed, at some point.)
Suffice it to say our winter has not been much of a winter. It’s difficult to declare what is not normal or not usual. We do have mild winters from time to time. That’s just the way of it. This winter, so far, has been more like the early stages of spring.
Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walking
I’m with Thoreau when it comes to swamps. And bogs and marshes. I love those liminal spaces where earth and water combine to form something else. In the book Home Ground, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, there is this:
… Swamps are Noah’s Ark of species, where scores of birds, insects, spiders, and amphibians live in the recesses. A paradise of alligators, muskrats, sometimes bears and panthers, swamps are a significant refuge for wildlife partly because they are of little commercial use unless drained. The Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia are two of the largest and best known. Swamps are places of overwhelming diversity of life, of primeval, melancholic gloom and ecological subtlety, haunted by poisonous insects, spiders, reptiles and rare flowers, and sheltering great beauty.
~ Robert Morgan
After our disc golf game last week, M and I took a hike to explore part of Trap Pond and the swamp. I’m not sure if the freshwater swamp in Trap Pond State Park is part of the Great Cypress Swamp or not. It might be. I do know, and have probably written about it before, that it is the northernmost stand of bald cypress trees in the U.S. The cypress trees here are relatively young, most having been around a century or less. The bald cypress tree can live up to 2,000 years. The wood is rot-resistant and the trees around Trap Pond (and within the Great Cypress Swamp) were (over) harvested in the 18th century, altering the wetland and forming a pond by damming the water to create energy for a sawmill. The pond was enlarged later by farmers laying down drainage tiles to remove the water from their fields.
It is said that there is one bald cypress tree in the park, found on the James Branch Water Trail and called the Patriarch, that is at least 550 years old. I’m hoping M and I might be able to kayak to it one of these days but I will need to improve my kayaking skills since the trail description mentions it is for intermediate to advanced paddlers (mostly because of the water hazards such as downed trees).
We did find one giant cypress tree in an area we hadn’t explored before, probably due to high water or, somehow or another, we missed the turn for it. Pardon my funny pose. It was difficult to stand next to the tree because the ground around it was squishy and springy so I ended up doing this funny squat to lean against it. Plus I think M took the shot while I was still moving around. I only agreed to pose so that there would be some perspective in terms of seeing how large the tree is. It’s nothing compared to the sequoias and redwoods of California, but it’s much bigger than many of the cypress trees around Trap Pond.
This morning I read this beautiful post by Leila Janah over at DailyGood.org. The post is about growing your own garden and starts with this:
It has been many weeks, and I finally got the itch to write again, this time about a symbol that in just a few days has given me a profound sense of relief: growing your own garden.
I’m not speaking about an herb garden.
I mean cultivating, in your own fertile mind, a set of values and standards by which you will measure your life’s worth separately from what anyone else says or thinks.
… Growing your own spiritual garden, a haven for an exhausted or cynical mind, is the only way to stay on the path of doing social and environmental or creative work with real, measurable impact without caving in to despair.
Because despair is all around us, and entrepreneurs and creators are especially vulnerable: we are the types who will new widgets and ideas and art into existence, possessed by a productive naïveté that can easily get crushed by reality.
It’s worth your time, whether you’re an artist, an activist, an entrepreneur, or none of the above, I think we could all benefit from growing our own internal gardens. The post has some suggestions on how to do that. (Note: Leila Janah died of complications due to cancer on January 24, 2020.) I printed it out and have plans to follow some of the suggestions. I’ve been exhausted lately, from the news cycle, from the divisiveness found both in the world and online, from the work we’re doing here in our community, from the work we’re doing in the Yoga Darsana class (and all that brings up), and maybe, from winter, even as mild as it’s been. This hasn’t been a typical rest and hibernate and go-within kind of winter for me, and I’m feeling that.
I suppose that’s enough from me on this sunny Saturday. Thank you for sauntering along with me. Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset. It’s chilly and breezy so you’ll want to bundle up. Sunset is scheduled for 5:33 PM. And hey, if you can’t make it out for that, there is a rocket launch at Wallops (in Virginia) tomorrow. It’s one of the big rockets, traveling to the ISS. Come on out and watch it with us.
Be good, be kind, be love. ♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,241) Bald Eagles flying in deep blue skies on a February day. 1,242) Beautiful words, poetry, ideas, and art from beautiful people to help counterbalance some of the ugliness in the world. 1,243) Crocuses and dandelions. 1,244) Friends, family, and M. Always. 1,245) Walks in the woods and swamps and marshes.