Adventure, community, Outdoors

Think Global, Hike Local


You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required of you is a willingness to trudge.

– Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

With a little vacation away from work and my kiddo off canoeing at day camp, it’s time for a fix of woods.  I pull up Hiking Upward to find something near enough to hit in a few hours but far enough for solitude.

This is the goal: solitude.  And its accompanying quiet.

Humans are social creatures, sure, and we need to be in proximity to people as much for a sense of connection as for all the stuff — the supermarket and hospital, the auto mechanic and school.  To survive, we need to be in community.  Even so, too much proximity to too many others can take its toll.  The buzz of engines and clang of machines, the soundtrack of urban and suburban life, can jam the signals.  When I start to notice myself too focused on the clock and task list, too alert, too aware of every demand and every passing vehicle, I know it’s time to seek out a forest. Continue reading “Think Global, Hike Local”


Happy 100 Days: 50

Halfway There: Waist Deep in Happy
Was this what it was like? To slog out to the river and begin beating shirts against a rock, and then to glance one inch to the left? To pause for a split second in the work that the clock forever demands? To let the attention stray? And to notice. . . yes. A glimmer. Was it like that blink? That shaking off of doubt? Down under the rippling surface, light dances off something never there before.
Was that here before?
This, the moment of restrained hope, must have felt just so. Did that first breath caught, that first incredulous pause, rise this way from soles to spine to widening eyes?
It can’t possibly be gold.
It begins as a dusting. Just one flake of light, there on the fingertips reddened by work and chill. A speck, a silvering bit of yellow sun, yes, awakening in the air. Venturing deeper into the swirl to see what else may be there makes the body thrill. Oh, immersion! A closer inspection of the riverbed gives the eyes a whole new angle on that rugged landscape.
One nugget then another. A handful then a pocketful. Never a surge, no — this is just the trickle of what has been floating right on past and within reach for years. Forever. It is a lifting out from the clear waters one small bit at a time of precious stuff. It is a billowing out of the apron to make room for the growing abundance. It is a gathering of riches.
Panning sometimes begins by intention, sometimes by pure chance. And only the rarest occasion yields anything but stone. The one certainty is this: only those who plunge in will ever find it.
Look a little to the left. Attend to the light. Suspend doubt. Dig.

This is the halfway mark. This is also the beginning. Today, something I never could have imagined trickled up and out of that dark river bottom. Until this moment, so much has been the eroding bank, the black minnow, the grit and cold mud. It has been the searing submersion in raw self.
Today, something gold and rare and so very light bobbed past. I saw it. I held its tiny shaving in my palm and felt the nothing weight of what it promised.
A new resource. A kind of ease. A half-ounce of hope. Something. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but I have no doubt it should be gathered. I see now how much of it swims past my ankles. How much of it clings to my skin.
How close I have always been.
How very near I now am.


Giving Way

The storm blows
trees across lines
and we all come out to see
neighbors we have not met
in thirteen years
calling to us from across the way,
“Hello, hello, do you have power?
Do you have any damage?”
It is hot for days.
The dog and I clamber
over fallen beeches
to walk the trail
winding along a stream
as we do every week.
A stranger in soiled wellies with his panting
labrador pauses to ask
about the contents of our fridge
and the integrity of our roof
before apologizing
for all the mud. “The path to the pond
is pretty rough with all the trees down.”
The pond?
He and the hound bid us farewell
and I see a trail
I have never met
in thirteen years
bending off through the shattered woods.
It takes me two months to find
time, it is September
before we follow the thin ribbon
of roots and earth
to a place where lily pads blanket the surface
and tiny frogs whing away from the splashing
advance of my dog through mud
swallowing her up to her chest. She dips
her head again
and again to drink
living water
all of a sudden
right here.


Be, Sweet

I scrub the seed down to hull
under the running faucet, knife scraping
the last of the yellow meat, bone slipping
off the tips of my fingers. The wet is a constant
danger. I use scissors then
nails, clawing the flesh but I cannot
reach It.
The seed is not separate
after all. Fur sprouts from within, strings
peel to fruit to ovary to tree, one thing
inside one thing.
The desire of a mango is not the same
as the tongue’s desire, though both long
to be carried away. To fly
and beetle, to the bowels of elephants,
planting season is always
right now. We are all cannibals here. Eat down
the body, drink the marrow, excrete
the next incarnation.
I carry the moist seed to the bed
where my son reaches out to stroke
the furred remains
of his favorite thing
after it is gone
before being born.