February 15, 2022

Sometimes, you can see the ice…


Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.

-Gretel Ehrlich


It snowed last night, leaving about an inch of the white powdery stuff on top of the sheets of ice Waldo and I have been battling with the past few days.  It covered up the really icy spots so you can’t see them.  The snow is light enough that it doesn’t stick to the underlying ice in some places.  The end result is a lot of surprised slipping and sliding – but not everywhere.  Most places were warmed throughout the day to provide just enough glue to provide adequate purchase, if you’re careful.  So, we walk along, me with an occasional sudden wild lurch and flailing arms, Waldo with a splayed four footed shuffle, but we’re able to keep to our feet.

It’s so quiet and still out here.  Without the rustle of leaves, the chatter of squirrels, the call of birdsong and the buzz of insects, the place seems dead.  But it’s not.  It’s just waiting, forever waiting, for warmer times.  The wilderness has taken a hiatus, it’s recharging, preparing, bracing itself, for the surge of activity that’s sure to come in the spring and summer.  We humans have cut ourselves off, more or less, from this natural rhythm by building cocoons with controlled environments.  Not only our homes and work places, but even our cars insulate us from the harsher parts of nature.  We do it so well that during an entire day, most of us spend only a few minutes out in the unprotected air of Mother Nature.  We’ve nearly severed the umbilical cord that connects us to the world.  Or so we think.

But we fool ourselves.  We can never completely disconnect from nature because we are nature.  Nature is in our organs, our cells, the blood that flows through our veins and arteries.  It’s in our brains and in every thought and emotion we have.  We are a product of the natural world and, until we find some way to transfer our consciousness to a machine, we can only pretend that we’re not bathed in the natural world, that we are separate and different in some essential way from everything else in nature.  We are animals, just like every other animal in the most essential ways.  We need to eat and drink, inhale and exhale, shelter ourselves from the elements and take care of our corporeal selves.  This can only be done by immersing ourselves in nature, to get our air, our food, and the stuff of which our shelters are made from nature.  We not only don’t need to completely insulate ourselves from the rest of nature, we really can’t.

I like to watch Waldo as he lopes down the path.  He’s consumed by the natural world and loves being in it.  He’s not just connected to it, he’s a part of it — a molecule of water in an ocean-wave of life swirling around him.  As I watch, I can see him become totally absorbed in his instinct to smell the ground around him, to be attentive to what’s right in front of him, to indulge his canine nature by running and playing, exploring and feeling the world around him.  To him, home is a place to go to eat and sleep, not a place to be.  Outside is where he exists, inside is merely a place for respite, for recharging.  I’m no different from Waldo.  We’re both animals, both mammals, both naturally occurring organisms.

I’ve found that, when I’m out walking with Waldo, if I open myself up and pay attention to what is happening around me, to be a part of nature and not just passing through it, what I’m really doing is connecting to my true self.  I’m experiencing my own real nature, instead of the artificial and fictitious self that I’ve invented.  I’m feeling how the role I play effects the world around me and how that world impacts on me.  Directly.  In real-time.  I see the footprints I leave behind in the snow.  I feel a cold gust of wind as its icy fingers numb my exposed cheeks.  I see my misty breath as it hangs in the air and watch as the dry air greedily consumes that moisture.  I move through the winter landscape, leaving evidence of my passing and feeling the fingerprint of nature left behind on my soul.  I do not exist as an independent entity, I am merely a small part of a larger natural universe playing with itself.

And when Waldo and I play, the joy is more than doubled.


…sometimes, you can’t.

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