At one point I had the idea that clearing and smoothing the walking trails through my woods would result in brisk exercise. That was before I caught myself stopping every few steps to look at something: seed pods on a redbud tree, gooseberry leaves turning scarlet, a cat following me, the view across the creek valley, a spider web, the sky.
Along the west side of the ridge, I often pause so long I seem to take root, like Tolkien’s Ent Treebeard:
“I can see and hear (and smell and feel) a great deal from this, from this, from this a-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lind-or-burúmë. Excuse me: that is a part of my name for it; I do not know what the word is in the outside languages: you know, the thing we are on, where I stand and look out on fine mornings, and think about the Sun, and the grass beyond the wood, and the horses, and the clouds, and the unfolding of the world.”
— Treebeard in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
I don’t even want to close my eyes to meditate. The sounds of the woodlands overwhelm me. Blue jays set up a racket. Crows argue politics. Footsteps in the fallen leaves might be a cat or a deer or a wild turkey. The occasional car or truck labors uphill. A neighbor fires up the chainsaw. The wind swishes across the valley before it begins to move the trees on the ridge. I have to look.
One of my favorite cards in Morgan’s Tarot is “The Universe: Not unfolding the way it should.” The Zen joke, of course, is that the Universe can only unfold exactly the way it should.
Leaves cover the paths. Branches outline the sky. In a few months the trees will bud again. Geese call above the clouds, heading south, this time. The seasons and cycles turn. I pause on the hillside and look across the creek valley to watch the slow unfolding of the world.