My weekend is hectic for a change, with social stuff. Plans made with my daughters and their children yesterday, plus a gardening supply activity and then a trip to a Speed show with my oldest for her birthday. These kinds of events don’t really pique my interest, but it is important to her so I’m giving it a whirl. What has been nice about these mini-plans is that they are for a few hours, and then I have time to myself. I much prefer this to all day activities, little spurts of getting out and socializing, and then back home to play in the dirt, read, write or indulge in photo play.
After swallowing my fear of being alone that first night through help of friends, the first day on my own seemed completely full of promise and an open call to my natural curiosity. Our rough and ready hike through the two properties was really an overview of property lines, a chance to get the lay of the land, and to see habitats, creeks and basically give me an in-person map out of the areas. It wasn’t a slow and steady trip for dawdlers like me, who will often stand still and just look around to see what I am not seeing. This day was for me to see as I experience the world, as is most often done by me alone. I have difficulty examining the world when there is another person present, unless we are very well meshed and ‘look’ at things the same way. But I have often found too, in a few cases, that how others see opens up things to me that I might have missed, and present other, more interesting observations. My late husband worked diligently and gently with me, to pry loose those fears that I seemed overwhelmed with at times, and it is with him that I often hiked, began to overcome my jumpiness and irrationality. Some of my most favored memories of my time with him are of our times in the woods, visiting parks and waterfalls, walking, looking, photographing things. He too, maintained a child-like interest in the world, when he could be pried away from the computer 🙂 But it was always me that was examining the minutia of the world, trying to take in its beauty in differing seasons, comparing it in my mind to find the changes in the landscape, the trees, the living inhabitants that traveled through our own little space in time.
As I headed back down the road of doom for the Fit, the quiet no longer bothered me. In fact, it really wasn’t quiet, simply devoid of other human sounds. I listened to the wind as it traveled through the dried leaves on trees and tried to ascertain the direction of its origin – would I be upwind from the place we watched the deer graze so I could have the privilege of watching them again? Or was it carrying my scent down to them before I ever arrived? I am directionally-challenged something terrible, even though I’ve tried to memorize the N-E-S-W little meme in my head. It seems so simple, but for some reason my brain just doesn’t wrap around it easily. I do know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West though, lol! For me on this day, the wind was again in my favor, blowing upwind towards me and away from the deer. I was learning how to walk with quietness in the woods, what places made the least amount of sound when placing my feet, and how to hold the clangy things adorning my day pack from whacking around on each other, plus the heavy camera around my neck, so as to have a little bit of stealth in my approach. It had been explained to me that a light wind was good, as the deer can’t hear as well either and it hides the noises we make when out and about. With the wind in my favor, I was able to catch a glimpse of a small herd of does grazing in the field, standing still for probably ten minutes just watching, before the activity of raising the camera to catch them alerted them to my presence and set their large white tails in flag mode and they made a mad dash for the surrounding cover in the woods. I managed to catch a few photos, but none are really quality due to my distance and their swift departure. This one isn’t too bad.
Although I have a keen interest in old homesteads and would later in the week explore the other one hidden on the property, something about the one here is more foreboding and I did not explore it beyond the sagging doorway. I think perhaps because it is so full of personal things still, it feels like prying. Also, I cannot see the floor for the human detritus, so I have no idea how sturdy it may be, and ending up with a twisted ankle in the middle of nowhere isn’t my idea of ‘adventure’. I capture the sadness of the leaning outhouse among the brambles and try to imagine stumbling out there in the dark fifty years ago. I’m afraid I’d be one that would avail myself of a chamber pot inside of the house, or perhaps just the ground. I don’t know that I have claustrophobia, but I’ve been in outhouses both ancient and modern, and I do not care for that closed in, hemmed in feeling. I’m more comfortable relieving myself in the open and wild than one of those things quite frankly, in privacy of course.
I re-cover the trail through the woods that we first traveled earlier in the week but it feels shorter this time even though I am paying attention to frogs in shallow ponds and watching them, noticing the density of the thickets to the left of the path and listening to the unseen animals scurrying about at my intrusion into their rarely visited home. When the trail breaks into the small sapling area, I discover a large pond that went unseen on the previous trip, and pause to stare into it, wondering if it is there year round or is simply the result of the recent rains and snows. Varying shades of leaves overlay each other at the water’s edge, like beauty preserved under glass – deep reds, rust, light tan and dark brown. The spring peepers are very loud once they accept me as no threat, and maintain a constant chorus in tandem with the rustling breeze. I often associate visual things with music, and this scene brings to mind Philip Wesley’s “Dark Night of the Soul” due to its light touch and flowing sounds. Breaking free of my pond reverie, I return back to the light semblance of a trail and blaze tape mark two trees. Probably a bit overly compensatory, but I’d rather be sure I know where I am going back.
I continue down to the creek and my delight increases at the many visual pleasantries found in this area. An ice storm earlier in the year caused a felling of trees across the creek, where they fell touching each other and made a natural stunning vista as they leaned and tottered over the water, joining older, earlier fallen brethren and framing the creek in photographic perfection. I do not know why this particular combination of water, rock, and tree fall mesmerized me so, but it is a scene that I photographed a lot. Perhaps the architectural elements, or the simple fact that I have always loved trees, but I could not take it in enough and ended up perching upon a perfectly suited fallen tree, munching on crackers and drinking some water, and just soaking it all in. I took out my journal and made some notes. It is also the subject of one of three videos I made on the trip, but for some reason the videos are all upside down or sideways 😦 I’ve not determined how to fix that yet. They play fine on my phone, but of course, it fits in ones hand and can be turned to accommodate the viewing.
It was on this day that I felt myself finally shed the external and totally turn inward while being able to fully see externally – I am not even certain that those words will make sense to others. It was a letting go and simply experiencing. No thought of the lack of a partner, no thought of the job, no thought of bills and lists and things that must happen before I can return to this kind of place, if not this precise place. I was so still upon the log, that butterflies came and landed there and I watched them touch with their delicate thin legs the same tree I touched, watched the proboscis extend and retract, and then they spread their wings and warmed themselves in the sun.
Further down stream there was a natural beach, bearing the signs of recent visitors, predator and prey sharing the same water source.
This brought to mind the following thought: We always leave our mark, be it upon heart, mind or earth. No one travels undetected, so we must be mindful of our imprint upon others and upon our natural world.
The vantage point for all of this musing activity…
I could have remained there all day, but even without clocks and calendars, I still wanted to explore more and be back in camp in a timely manner to eat before dark, read and write a bit and just relax. Reluctantly, I returned to camp, holding these visions and emotions closely to me, savoring them, relishing them, and now can share them with you also.
The grounding that this trip provided is probably something you are tired of hearing about, but I repeat it often in order to encourage others to seek such things for themselves, if they bring comfort and joy to you. Don’t wait. Make time to do it. Honor your inner self, so that what you offer back to the external world is more true, more pure, more softened. Let the hardness of concrete and glass, asphalt and signage fall off of you and renew your skin.
Listen. Look. Slow down. Enjoy.
Copyright© S. M. King “Scraps Torn From A Diminutive Notebook” project 2013-2014