a double haiku:
even in the midst
of coronavirus fear
this earth speaks to me.
dirt beneath our feet
embraced by walls of red rock.
it’s beating my heart.
“and into the woods i go to lose my mind and find my soul.” john muir
the green makes me breathe differently. the scent of the underbrush, of towering pine trees, of the breeze brushing by me, whispering sweet nothings. the sounds of rustling leaves, of birdcalls, of the crunch of my feet. the green.
entering a different space entirely, i succumb to the green. my mind slows down a bit, my pulse in tandem. my steps are less frantic; frenzy is left at the side of the gravel, at the side of the dirt worn down by the tread of other soul-quenching-seekers. this is the lure of the trail.
“in the woods we return to reason and faith.” ralph waldo emerson
the green makes me think differently. we are silent. we talk. we review. we ponder. mostly, we take one step after another. in beauty. we remember this place, this earth, this universe. we remember it is simply on loan to us. just for the briefest of times. our tiny flash of star is ephemeral. and, simultaneously, it is on loan to billions of other people, all just as deserving of the green as we are.
“each and every one of us can make changes in the way we live our lives and become part of the solution to climate change.” al gore
we simply cannot deny climate change any longer. the apocalyptic weather events across our nation point their – rightfully – accusing fingers at this nation, a nation financing the denial of this climate crisis. this place, victim to colossal weather events, massive wildfires, eroding shorelines, calving glaciers and shrinking arctic, human-contaminated air and water, disregard for the preservation of natural resources, big-money-agenda-ized lands. we have a responsibility to this good earth, which has nurtured and fed and watered us throughout our lives. we need preserve it. there will be those who follow. they will need the green.
“i don’t want your hope. i don’t want you to be hopeful. i want you to panic and act as if the house was on fire.” greta thunberg
shall we all participate in the evanescence of the green? or shall we all fight for the sustenance of this mother earth?
it is our meditation, our respite, our rejuvenation, to hike. so we find trails everywhere we go. our old hiking boots have stories of mountains and deserts, forests and rivers, dunes and sidewalks.
we choose to trek instead of anything else. for we have found that “in every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks.” (john muir, naturalist)
in these times of pandemic, our travel has been of limited scope. we have taken seriously the words of fervent scientists and medical experts to stay close to home, to wear masks, to social distance, to be always aware of putting self and others at risk. and so our spectrum of hiking trails has been reduced in range, the radius from our home none too large.
the river we hike along is well-known to us now. we know the curves in the trail; we know the bend in the river and where the water laps at the bank. we anticipate the small turtles on the rock in the tributary; we expect the butterflies to be numerous as we pass the field of wildflowers. we know where the mile markers are before we see them. we know where the mosquitoes will swarm. it doesn’t change anything for us. we still go. we still hike. for “into the forest i go to lose my mind and find my soul.” (john muir)
each time we start we are aware of how very familiar this place is. each time we finish we are aware of seeing it with fresh eyes. marcel proust’s words, “the real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes” comes to life with every booted step.
the place we go, the haven we seek, are trails that let us be quiet, trails that let us talk, trails that make us tired, trails that invigorate us. they need not be new.
each time we take any of our beloved trails or walks in the general radius of our sweet home we breathe air into anxious hearts, solace into worried minds, we stretch stress-tensed bodies, we are mindful of glimpses of eased souls, we draw inspiration from this good earth, we find the new in old.
quiet. we walk in quiet most of the time. even our longer hikes are quiet. it is a time of rest for us, rest from the noise of the rest of life, the noise of worry and angst, the noise of dispute, the noise of too much bad news, the noise of chaos. we listen to the birds and our footfalls on the trail. we listen to the wind and the sound of creatures rustling in the underbrush. the quiet calms us; the quiet lifts the cellophane from the magic slate cardboard, it shakes the etch-a-sketch and takes it all back to zero, back to start, back to a rainwashed driveway waiting to be chalked all over again.
having run out of everest, k2 and annapurna footage we are watching appalachian trail and pacific crest trail and john muir trail videos these days. on our own treks locally we decide which one of these to take, listing the specific merits of each. make no mistake, these are serious treks. the AT is 2190 miles from georgia to maine. the PCT is 2653 miles from the border of mexico to the border of canada. the JMT, joining with the PCT some of the way, is 211 miles through the sierras, high elevation pass after pass. clearly, the training needed would be intense. but, as we envision this extended trekking, we are drawn to the quiet. the noise of this world has become raucous and the woods and the mountains seem to beckon with absolution, with grace, with rejuvenation.
there used to be a button on the cassette player that you could push that would quicken the pace of the tape to the end: fast forward. it would seem these trails, this quiet, like sleep, would fast forward through the dark and bring you to the light once again. these trails – this quiet – remind you that next comes.
and so, the noise of the day will cease. and you can listen to the sound of your footfall on a new day, ready to be chalked.
this is an old woods. while we still can hike in it, we are driving -without stopping- to the woods and, generally without seeing anyone else, taking a hike. it is grounding to be in a woods that is old, a woods that is natural.
we spend time looking up at the very-mature-trees standing, reaching to the sky, parallel to each other, taking in the sun. they too share their space. they have endured storm and wind, snow and torrential rain; they have endured times of thirst and times of excessive heat. they are still enduring.
i suspect most of these trees are much older than us. their rings of life could tell stories of lack, stories of abundance, stories of challenge and stories of ease. yet, they quietly stand, swaying in the wind like cattails along the curves of a slow river. not one boasts of its steadfastness; not one complains of its fall. the wisdom of the ages seemingly is in the long story. not in the angrily staccato-ed punctuation of a self-indulgent-short-story.
we step into the forest and the community of trees seems to sigh, pleased to see us again. it is not the prettiest of woods. but it is deeply, silently reassuring. life goes on.
we bought snowpants. on sale for only $7 they are a wise investment for two people who hike year-round out in the woods or wherever we are. it’s a big deal for us to buy anything new so, this time, instead of looking at them every day and saving them for good (ala beaky) we celebrated our good deal by putting them on, going out in the snowy woods and hiking.
we were pretty much silent. you could hear snow falling from the trees and the crunching of our boots on the trail. but we didn’t talk much. with so many things to talk to about and the woods being our best meeting room it was unusual. but sometimes, it is silence that is most needed.
our path, like this stream, has zigged and zagged. it has brought us past jagged rocky times and through sweet gentle lapping pools. it has been lit by warm sun and darkened by the deep worry of late night.
but one thing is always consistent in the inconsistency of life. no matter how we arrive in the woods, no matter the angst we bring. arm in arm, because it is our habit, we walk through the woods. arm in arm on the trail we silently hike toward quieting our hearts and minds. under trees older than our troubles, arm in arm walking reaches past even anger-inspired words, things spoken in frustration. arm in arm we remember all that is good, all that is certain. the day’s hurdles and fears and unease fade as the sun sets. and we zag.
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one of the cool things about living in kenosha is the ability to easily get to two major cities – milwaukee and chicago. we drive up to milwaukee to putter around, go to the art museum, walk along the river in the third ward, go to antique shoppes. we usually take the train to chicago, driving south a couple towns for more frequent schedule choices. we walk the streets of the city, find places for coffee or glasses of wine, attend national geographic live events or a play or concert, visit with friends.
but we are actually less city people than we are outdoors people. and so, more often, we will head out – west of the i – and take a drive out in the county. in next-to-nothing we are surrounded by farmland, breathing in the scent of rich dirt in fields that are turned over for planting, some yielding early croplings*.
in also next-to-nothing time, david whips out his sketchbook and pencils to capture the really gorgeous patterns in these fields of green. (these words make me think of the stunningly beautiful song fields of gold. if you haven’t ever heard it, please take a few minutes right now and click HERE. you will be glad you did.)
just a sketch, but a reminder of the moments we passed these fields, talking or listening to music, singing along or simply silence in the car. a breath of fresh air, a drive to rejuvenate, maybe a hike on a trail to restore us – all west of the i.
©️ 2019 david robinson & kerri sherwood
*yes. technically, ‘croplings’ is not a word. but i could not resist it. this stems from my love of the word ‘seedlings’.
as i am writing this, The Girl just texted to say she was driving off the pass and that she and lumi-dog had finished their hike in the back-country. earlier she had texted (as is safe practice for all back-country activity) to let someone know both that she was going to be out of cell service, off the grid, in the high mountains on a hike and where she intended her hike to take her. she is a conscientious hiker and boarder and i can’t tell you how much i appreciate that. and so, early early this morning, i looked up the hike she was taking.
the #1 hike in the san juans (according to my trail app) it was taking her on a giant elevation gain and to a stunning lake, the color of which i couldn’t describe by the picture, and evidently was un-grasp-able even by the people reviewing the hike. this was a place incapable of being captured by even a crayola 64-box.
that is what i love about our world. countless places we couldn’t begin to capture with crayons. no matter how many we could get our hands on.
the places that take our breath away. the places that give us breath.
there aren’t enough crayons in the world to capture it all ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood
right now my favorite boots are my timberland brown and black boots. they are hiking boots and they are always sitting at the back door….poised and ready. in between work(s), we will throw them on and drive off somewhere for a hike; our go-to adventures usually include a hike somewhere. at the moment, these boots are full of mud because the woods around these parts are completely muddy and squishy and on the verge of gleefully welcoming spring. but we don’t let that stop us.
now it’s not too out-of-the-ordinary for us as we often have gotten caught in weather, but we chose to be in the woods in the rain last week and ohhh what a gift – the smell of rain dampening the earth was exquisite. looking back, it is one of my favorite moments in the woods and i’m glad to have not missed it.
today we are sitting in lake geneva drinking starbucks coffee and writing, a fire going just beyond our feet perched on the hearth. i think of the day we were out here having a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe. it began to drizzle and we got ready to go, but not sooner than the skies let loose. it poured down buckets of rain and we laughed and splashed through the puddles, playing in the water, nonplussed* by the torrents around us.
spring is around the corner. grab your rubber boots or your hiking boots or just be barefoot and go splash in those puddles. don’t let a chance to play pass you by.
*(so i just looked up ‘nonplussed’ to make sure i was using it correctly and was surprised to see two opposite definitions of it. the one i meant was ‘unperturbed’ but that was the second definition; the first definition was surprised and confused. words are funny, aren’t they?)
PUT ON YOUR RUBBER BOOTS ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood
late yesterday afternoon, after a day spent working on computers and designs, with technology sluggishness taking over our souls, we headed to the woods to take a hike. any time we feel tired or ‘stuck’ we walk. around the ‘hood, along the lake, or to the starbucks about 2 and a half miles away. any time we feel exuberant or elated we walk. sometimes in the mountains (ahh!!) or in chicago or the third ward in milwaukee. any time we need a ‘business meeting’ we walk. mostly in the woods, in a county or state park. walking and breathing in fresh air brings us back to the moment. it re-centers us.
we hiked up the small rise in the woods, the light was waning and behind us the sky was deep deep orange. in the clearing beyond the stand of trees stood, very still, a deer. it was clearly the ‘lookout’ as way back in the field were six more deer, easy to count in the almost-dark as their white tails bobbed when the lookout gave the alert. we stood perfectly still watching this beauty, a magic moment in the woods. neither of us wanted to leave the spot. i took a picture, not because you can see the deer in it, but because it preserved the moment for me. i didn’t want to forget. because, as you already know, i am thready like that.
around me, every rock or feather or piece of wood or ticket stub or scrap of notepaper carries with it a specific moment – preserved in time. i could not necessarily tell the story of each of those moments – there are far too many for my synapse-challenged-brain to remember. but i know that each one had meaning for me. each one defined yet another piece of me, my relationship with someone i love, a time i shared with another being, a learning, a moment of sheer bliss, a moment of deep sadness. each moment renewed me and brought me to my next moment of living.
as i have moved through life one thing has become certain. that everything changes. nothing stays the same. life is in flux, always fluid. what more do we have than each moment as it arrives for us? i ask myself, “how do i want to spend this moment? what do i want to feel about this moment?” for i can never get it back. i can never re-do it. time has moved on. and so i must keep moving. i write about moments, i compose about moments, i tell stories about moments. for me, those details count. attempting to put succinctly (ha!) into words my philosophy-of-what-moments-mean is impossible; it is the umbrella that skies over everything else i believe, everything else i think.
when The Boy was little, he called the rearview mirror in cars the “review” mirror. particularly poignant i think. i have seen it written “don’t stare into the rearview mirror. that’s not the direction you are going.” instead i try (read: TRY) to review the past moments, learn from them, find grace in them, save the memory threads. and wholeheartedly embrace the ones to come. the moments. unique. in every way. i love this chicken marsala image.
this moment…unique…in every way ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood