May 04, 2021

The trees are still naked.


You carry Mother Earth within you.  She is not outside of you.  Mother Earth is not just your environment.  In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.

-Thich Nhat Hanh


The days have lengthened and warmed to the low sixties.  Waldo and I can start our daily six-mile walk as late as four o’clock and still make it home before dark.  During the winter, I don’t need to carry water for Waldo as it’s cool enough that he won’t need it.  Now, even though it’s not that hot for me, Waldo does need to drink after four miles or so.  If we walk more than ten, he usually drains both of the liter bottles I bring for him.  It’s not so hot yet that we have to leave before dawn to avoid temperatures higher than 75℉, but that time is coming.  Spring is here.

The oaks on the rail-trail have small buds at the ends of their branches.  They’re getting fat and have well-defined leaflets, although they are still all well-furled.  The maples have tiny red flowers on the tips of their limbs that make them appear vaguely rosy, when seen in the distance, as if they were bathed in a veil of sanguine mist.  Pussy willows have their distinctive puffballs poofed out in the air and quaking aspens dangle small, pinecone-like pods from the ends of their twigs.  Rhododendrons are all green with uncurled leaves released from their wintery desiccation and have huge buds ready to burst forth.  Most of the other undergrowth has started to green-up with small lime-green leaves and some bushes have already burst forth in pale, vibrant yellow inflorescence.  There are tufts of green blades of grass, here and there, thrusting up amidst the yellowed and brown, still slumbering, sod alongside the tarmac.  It won’t be long now and Waldo and I won’t be able to see more than a few tens of feet through the burgeoning verdure.

The tops of the trees, still bony and emaciated, sway gently in the breeze, dancing to Mother Nature’s sibilant windy song.  Birds chirp in a soprano lilt and squirrels and chipmunks occasionally add in a chattery alto chorus.  It’s still too cool for the baritone buzzing of insects, although I do notice an occasional gnat flit about my face.  My steady footfalls provide a percussion rhythm-section, accompanied by the blood beating around my ears.  All this is syncopated by the in and out of my breath, as steady as my pace.

Even though I am seventy-two years old and will not see youth again in this life, I can’t help but be enlivened by the resurgence of the life on the trail.  I empathize with the celebratory reawakening, the eager reanimation of the plants that surround me as if I, too, knew the joy of yearly rebirth.  After all, I have seasonal rhythms too, they just aren’t as dramatic as those in the great outdoors.

I can’t help but feel that I’m not out in Nature, as if Nature was something distinct from what I am.  No, I’m part of the nature I see, hear and feel around me.  After all, the particles that make up my physical existence are the same that make up all matter in the universe.  The physical laws of nature apply to me as much as they do to everything else.  The energies that pulse and throb through the natural world around me also hum and beat through me.  Mother Nature pushes against me with heat and light from the sun, pressure from the wind and support from the ground.  I, in turn, absorb and reradiate light and heat, breathe the air in and out as I push my way through it, and stomp on the Earth beneath my feet.  I hear sounds and I make noise.  I am a part of what’s going on, not an independent observer who can pass through this life without being affected by his surroundings, nor without having an effect on everything through which I pass.  If the universe were an ocean, then I would be a drop of water in that ocean.

Although Waldo lives in an apartment, I don’t think he fancies himself to be something outside of nature.  Like the trees, bushes, grasses, birds, squirrels and insects, he is perfectly content to be an active part of the dance that’s going on around him.  The smells, the sights, the sounds, not only make up his experience, they make up who he is.

Waldo showed me the Tao of walking.


Things are starting to get greener.

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