Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Miles We Walk

We are well within reach of our 75 mile hiking goal for the month of March and it's our our physical bodies, to our spiritual bodies, to the much larger than us natural, whole world. We are grateful for the opportunity to be in this world and so we walk and we observe. Sometimes we try to capture our joy in selfies and usually it goes awry. For one...

and then the other...

So, we forget about looking at us and walk anyways. We admire the beauty in the world outside of us, tempering overthinking inside of us. 

Because of our nonconventional schedule, folks sometimes think we don't work, but we do. Steve is the primary money maker as a soil scientist doing soil investigations for septic systems. This boy knows soil and his ability to read the land is beautiful. If you think you know something about soil because you've read a lot or worked a garden, you probably don't. Take it from me, someone learning from someone in tune with his environment and observing soil for many decades, it's a wild ride of learning and unlearning. To make the best use of fossil fuels on far flung jobs and to take advantage of different hiking opportunities, I sometimes go along and watch birds or write while Steve operates his one man gig.

He walks far, he bores holes deep, shallow and often in slop, in all sorts of weather, with all sorts of landowners and is more often challenged than not. Here we visited the Darby Plains not intact at this private residence, but at Battelle Darby where we walked after, large acreages of land are protected and feeling the love and goodness of restoration. 

The farming practices that make homogenous landscapes like the one above also fuel us. We make homemade granola aware of our oats and pepitas and what pecan orchards look like. We buy the best we can with what's available to us, ever aware that our food purchases directly impact the biodiversity of the land surrounding us all. Will our food growing practices continue to improve? We believe so, if enough of us say yes.

On our many miles walked, funded by Steve, fueled by Mother Earth, we observe the simplicity and the resourcefulness of the lives around us. I wonder what the ridges and valleys of tree bark might feel like to Winter Fireflies seeking warmth and protection from cold wind? 

Spring Treetop Flasher Fireflies join the Winter Fireflies in this ridge and valley landscape we have become so enamored with. 

In an almost unbelievable moment of bark exploration, Steve found a Harvester butterfly chrysalis. We find these fascinating butterflies (who live in relationship with aphids and ants in this forest), but this is our first find of their pupation chamber, where enzymes turn the insides to goo and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. There is magic in miles walked and observations made when the self-mind turns quiet and the awe-mind turns on.

These tree bark landscapes are so like the landscapes we walk.

Rattlesnake Plantain...

and Wild Sedum and moss also find shelter amongst these the leaves, on the roots, on the bark.

Shelter is critical for survival for all of us. I wonder about human shelter, in my critical thinking, sometimes overthinking mind. Why is it so extravagant? Why is it so big? Why is it not appropriate for weather without complex systems of heating and cooling? I am keenly aware of the multiplicity of over-the-top shelters Steve and I have. I marvel at the shelters created in our waste. 

We reconnect with our Earth ancestry in our walking. We mull over important and hard decisions and sometimes they spill out with clarity:

These four walls cannot contain me and yet they do. They warm me, they dry me, they offer me refuge. We've painted the walls joyful colors and filled the rooms with inspired, treasured handcraft. What we didn't prepare for in our nesting is the care that is necessary for all these things and the cost to our spirits in the care. You see, our spirits run with the coyotes. They soar with the turkey vultures. They stand sturdy as the oak. Our spirits crave sun, rain, wind, barefootedness, contact with soil. Our spirits ask at what cost are we accepting comfort? Our spirits tell us, it is too high. Change. Move your legs. Touch the tree bark and smell the scented gray-headed coneflower seeds. Drink in the richness of the sky and the marvel of a functioning ecosystem. Remember. Rejoin. These four walls cannot contain you, but they will if you let them. Get less comfortable. Be more free. Rediscover where you came from. Nourish your spirits. Nourish the fireflies. Nourish the opossums. Nourish the forests. Nourish the wetlands, the rivers, the deserts, the mountains. Nourish the Earth. Find you again. Howl at the moon. Never forget. 

And so we walk and we restore land. We are cognizant that this planet is not ours for the taking, that our spirits require nourishment. The future is bright. Tough choices will be made. The spicy sweetness of the spring blooming Witchhazel envelops us, bringing us home once more.


Recommended Podcast (and Book): Dacher Keltner, The Thrilling New Science of Awe