April 18, 2023

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood and Waldo’s taking to the shade.


Those who train their hearts in natural wonder shall forever know the rivers, forests, wildflowers, and oceans, as friends.

-Atalina Wright


Today was the first time this season that I’ve been able to walk on the rail-trail comfortably in shirtsleeves.  The temperature is in the low sixties, with little in the way of wind to make it seem colder.  There are a few clouds overhead that keep the direct sun off me, so I’m not heated by solar radiation.  It is really a pleasant day to be out walking with Waldo.

What breeze there is blows a welcomed gentle, cool bath of air over my sweaty skin as I work up some body heat with the exertion.  There’s just enough sweat there to feel a light chill as it evaporates, but not so much so as to cause a shiver or even raise goosebumps.  The wind in the still-naked boughs of the trees causes a mild sibilance, nothing compared to the rustling it will generate when things are fully leaved-out, but it’s there just the same.  I can hear Gaia as she breathes and feel her breath as it plays with the small hairs on my arms and face.  It’s as if she’s talking to me in a nonverbal way.  I find the conversation calming and soothing and yet enticing in its magical beauty.

Squirrels are out and at play, rustling the dead leaves.  They usually appear in pairs, one chasing the other, in some game that carries them over the ground and up the trees.  Birds are whistling their distinctive tunes, talking amongst themselves in a language I can’t decipher.  They seem happy as well, whatever it is they are saying, and it raises my spirits to listen.  There are no buzzing insects to distract and no swarms of gnats, flies or mosquitoes to swat at and avoid.  All my senses are whetted by waves of sensations that induce reactions, feelings and emotions that are subtle, but somehow, if I open up to them, profound.  I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that a trip into the woods serves as an escape from my mundane life and a journey into a life more ethereal, basic and real.  What I experience here has beauty, magic and is reassuring, all I have to do is pay attention.  It is never threatening and surrounding myself in the zeitgeist makes my soul respond with, “Aaaaah.”

I just finished reading Hope Always Rises, by Kathie Giorgio.  It’s a wonderful book about a character who maybe can’t feel as I do in the woods.  She is beset by an overpowering, unattached sadness that eventually leads her to suicide.  After the act, she awakens in Heaven, where God greets her and, for the first time she can remember, she is without an omnipresent feeling of gloom.  Her sadness was a product of a biological engineering mistake that’s no longer present in her celestial being.  She meets other characters with similar stories and they share their experiences.  The book is an exploration and a destigmatizing of what can lead one to taking their own life.  It’s not judgmental or heavy or depressing and it’s not an intellectualization.  It’s more a journey taken beside a number of characters who suffered unbearably in life (a suffering that stopped after death) and just wanted the pain to stop.  The story artfully induces in the reader an empathy for its characters that would lead those characters, if they were flesh and blood, to feel that they are heard, that the reader understands, not in an intellectual, but in an existential way, their plight.

One of the things mentioned in the book is that the characters often find that art can be very therapeutic.   Of course, this is well known and widely used in psychiatric treatment, but the way it’s presented allows the reader to experience how putting what is felt on canvas, or in stone, or on the written page, can objectify emotions, externalize them and soften their impact.  Walking in the woods can also be very therapeutic.

Being in nature doesn’t involve putting something experienced inside on the outside where you can view it as being separate from yourself, though.  It’s more like you put aside what’s happening on the inside, let it go for the moment, so you can experience what’s happening on the outside and be one with that.  You replace your internal dialog with a conversation generated by the outside world, Mother Nature, and you just listen, and smell, and taste, and look, and feel.  You pay attention to all the ways you respond to what’s happening with your senses.  You experience, in depth, the human condition as it is at that moment, aside from your daily angst.  This, too, can ease life’s pains, or, at least, give some respite from them.

Just ask Waldo.  As I watch him saunter down the path, it’s apparent to me that he’s totally absorbed by what’s going on in front of his nose.  Directly in front of his nose and in the moment.  He gets a whiff of something and, for a while, that’s all that exists.  A passing dog might bark and growl at him, and he sidesteps a bit, then we walk on and continue down the trail.  The other dog is gone – it becomes nothing more than a memory — if that.  All that exists is what’s around him at the moment.  If he ever worries about what will happen or has happened, he doesn’t do it when we’re out walking.  And he is such a happy puppy.

Could I possibly go so wrong by following in his pawprints?


It’s hard to hold a stick when you gotta pant!


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