July 6, 2021

Dawn over Fort Meadow Reservoir.


I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet.

-Mahatma Gandhi


Waldo and I start our walk today in the predawn twilight.  There are no shadows yet as the dim light available is from the glow of the sky alone.  It’s 73℉ and muggy.  The air is heavy with humidity and walking through it feels like moving through dry water.  In less than a quarter mile, my shirt starts to feel moist from sweat.  Whatever sweat I do produce does little to cool me off since little of it evaporates in the nearly saturated air.  I make more sweat.

Getting up at 4 AM was a challenge this morning.  The impulse to roll over and go back to sleep was alluringly tempting.  But I knew if I didn’t get going then, it wouldn’t happen — any later and it would just be too hot for Waldo.  I don’t like exposing him to heat if I can help it.  He doesn’t complain about it, but his behavior says that he isn’t comfortable.  Who would be while wearing a sable coat in these temperatures?  He’s a real trooper and, even when he’s overheated, he keeps plugging along until we return to the car.  You can tell hot days really take it out of him, though, because, on those days, once we get home, he plops down on his side with his tongue fully extended, panting rapidly, until the AC cools him off.  That won’t happen today.

The twilight slowly brightens and long shadows soon lay across the tarmac.  A small brilliant orange disc hangs just above the distant treetops and a scraggly oak trunk reflects dim bands of tangerine light across its bark.  I’m in my stride now and the activity has me fully awake.  What was all the fuss about getting out of bed?  It was just one of those many times when you have to tell your brain, “Shut up and just do it.”  I should take more lessons from Waldo.  He wakes and is immediately up on all fours, tail wagging, ready to go.  Now, out here in nature, walking with Waldo, all that resistance-to-rising nonsense is forgotten.

My footfalls are on autopilot, along with my breaths and heartbeats.  I pay no attention to them at all.  I’m a passenger traveling along, looking out at the world as it passes by.  The human body is amazing that way.  You can just tell it, “Go thataway,” and it happens without further thought or mental effort.  You can look out at the world through the windows of your soul and absorb whatever is there, as if someone else were driving you along.  Sounds, smells, sensations, everything is there to be tasted and admired.  I watch as the tree trunks shift their relative positions due to parallax and the background grows into foreground.  The chirping and singing of birds change in volume and tune as they pass through my field of hearing.  The sweet smell of pine morphs into the sordid odor of swamp and the heat of sunlight abates into the blissful cool of shade as my mind is transported down the trail.  It almost feels as if I’m not the one moving, but what I experience is moving, like watching a movie.  I notice, for the first time, sassafras trees, bitter dock and common burdock, American beech, black locust and silvergreen byrum moss as they crawl past me.  A hundred yards off, alongside a small rill at the bottom of the railroad bed, the large broad leaves of skunk cabbage grow in dense rows.  My mind is drawn out there into nature and all the mundane things that absorbed my attention before I started are gone, as if they were never there at all.

All those battered and bruised, scraped and dented places in my psyche, caused by the ebb and flow of life, are gone.  Those imagined wounds have not just healed, they have evaporated as if they were never there, never real.  And you know, they weren’t real.  They were creations of my own mind, reactions that I authored in response to what happened around me.  The hesitancy to wake up and get out of bed, the pain of sharp words directed at me by frustrated people, the worry of whether or not my bank account can survive without overdraft charges until it is rejuvenated by income, all of that is gone.  My attention is somewhere else.  Somewhere pristine and pure, untouched by human value judgment.  I’m just experiencing the world as it is, as it passes by.  It’s all so magical.

Oh, all the issues that bother me will return in force as soon as our walk is done.  But for now, I can just bask in the serenity of the moment.

Out walking with Waldo on the rail-trail.


Early morning on the trail.

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