June 22, 2021

Now, that’s a world of green!


Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.

-Anne Frank


Phyllis, Waldo and I are out on the next leg of the Bay Circuit Trail.  We meet at 7 AM and begin our walk shortly thereafter.  It’s cool out, but not so cold that I’m not comfortable in shirtsleeves.  The forecast is for temps in the 80s later, so we really want to finish before it’s that hot.  At best, though, we’re going to have to sweat with temps in the high 70s before we finish.  I worry about Waldo, but we’ve walked on hotter days and I bring plenty of water for him.  It’s clear that he doesn’t like it as much as when the temps are in the forties, but he deals with it.   It seems his need to get out and enjoy the world trumps his discomfort.  As soon as paws hit the dirt, he’s off at the far end of the leash, leading us down the path.  And he’s right.  It is beautiful out here.

Phyllis, too, is eager to walk.  She really enjoys getting out and exercising.  She bikes when she can, cross country skis and snowshoes in the winter, and walks long distances with us.  She is in phenomenal shape and suffers our 12-to-15-mile treks with delight.  She’s very mindful that by staying active it means that she will continue to be active, for many years to come.  Especially as we grow older, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  When you lose it, it goes fast and getting it back again is a long, hard road to travel.  But that is not her real motivation.  She really enjoys being outdoors.  Maybe she’s related to Waldo.  Maybe we all are.

All the flora along the path, the trees, bushes and weeds, are completely foliated with large green leaves.  I’ve spent much of my life in arid and semiarid places in the world, where my surroundings were dull brown and yellow, and I always find it thrilling to be bathed in so much green.  All those leaves wrapped around me limit how far I can see, hear, smell and feel the world, which makes it feel small, cozy and friendly.  The leaves dance in the wind, shake and shimmy and give me the feeling of floating in a vibrant sea of life.  Insects buzz, birds chirp and flit about, squirrels and chipmunks race across our path, but it is the everywhere-dancing of the leaves that make me feel as if I’m in a pool of fluttering life.  Opening myself up, by just focusing on all the sights, smells, sensations and sounds around me, I invite in the present moment to dwell in my awareness.  That is a thing of great beauty.

You know, beauty is a funny thing.  I mean, what is beauty?  Why does it exist?  Humans have art, some of which serves no other purpose than to be beautiful, but there’s also a lot of beauty in nature.  The varied and florescent beauty of some birds, the shimmering and dazzling colors of insects and the multiple hues of flowers, just to name a few.  The tinkling burbling of a stream as it flows over rocks, the whispering murmur of wind in the trees, the song of birds in their nests, all of these things are beautiful.  Then there’s the odor of sage wafting over desert sands on a dark moonless night, the scent of burning eucalyptus as it cooks an evening meal and the sweet aroma of roses perfuming the air in a humble garden.  All these things we see as beautiful, and many are seen by different animals as beautiful as well.  Why is that?

Experts in evolution have tried to argue that beauty exists because it gives the beholder some evolutionary advantage by seeing them as beautiful.  Many have come to the conclusion, however, that effort has failed.  They would argue, in many cases, no such advantage can be found and beauty exists simply because someone or something perceives some things to be beautiful.  Sexual preference, for example, causes some combinations of colorful feathers in birds to be passed down from one generation to another, simply because the animals perceive them to be beautiful, without there being any survival advantage to the patterns at all.  Not all evolution is driven by natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Whatever the case, we are surrounded by beauty and all you have to do is open your senses and notice it.

And it is magic.


There is something alluringly beautiful about water running in a creek.

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