Nature Essay

Seven a.m. Sunday morning and I’m getting prepared to go out for my second hike in two days: A rare treat for me. I am an advent lover of the outdoors and all things Mother Nature but as of late, time has not permitted me the gift of enjoying the wilderness. Right boot on, left boot on, lace pulled tight, I pull over a thin but warm micro-fiber-technology fleece shirt. Not sure when clothing achieves the singularity point where micro-technology blends with the common fiber to create this super thin, but incredibly warm piece of clothing, but I am thankful for it.

Kiani, my dog, races franticly around me with the anticipation of being out in the woods. Kiani is an original breed, I prefer to use the term pure-bread since she is the purest thing I know, but officially she is a mutt. When somebody asks me what type of dog I have my answer is forever “Happy”, I have a happy dog, 100% pure love wrapped in fur. Kiani represents everything good that I ever studied on theology, Zen, Christianity, spirit…she has been my greatest teacher. Ok, I’m gonna say it; Kiani has a Buddha-Nature. Yes, my dog is more enlightened than you. That may be confusing to some of you especially if you have ever met her. Characteristically Kiani runs around all hyper and crazed, immediately wanting you to pet her and rub her belly. But what do you think you would do with your Buddha-Nature? What’s better than a belly rub?

Car on, dog in the back seat, no coffee, no camera: Today I see, not document. I often wonder if photographers practice the art of seeing. Seems like a silly question “Do photographers practice seeing?” Seeing is the job, but the question is, do you/we see? Do we look to the left, to the right, to the sounds, to the smells, to the touch, of what is present?

I drive past a farmer’s empty field, icy fog blankets the ground and thick sunbeams break through the clouds as if they were an upside down crown. The sunbeams, mixed with the icy fog, create a silhouette that blackens the trees in the foreground. Damn, wish I had my camera now. That would be the last time I saw the sun that day, it sunk back behind the clouds for the rest of that day.

Walking into the woods I experience the silence, no vibration, no movement, the air is still. I notice my own breath and heart beat, then a thunderous flock of ducks whisk by as if out of nowhere. Trees rustle as the last of winter’s dead leaves fall from the treetops, I step in mud. Trail is muddy and mushed-up from all the mountain bikers enjoying the path. Kiani is in all her glory racing around the muddy trail, I imagine it as a giant slip and slide for a dog. I stand unaccompanied, engulfed with the eternally present understanding that I am no greater than this tree I am standing next to and that I am as great as this tree standing next to me. I walk with appreciation and speculate if the wilderness has gratitude of me.

I observe a great deal of moss living on fallen tree trunks, life from death I think to myself. Lacking the understanding of nature-science I wonder how moss can live on a dead object. The colors of the two blending make for a dramatic juxtaposition of colors and textures. Brown, tans, yellow of the tree bark mixed with the wet blended greens of the moss with hints of white glows and reflects off of each other. Next I hike up the trail to the ridge top, not quite a summit but still a good trek. This is a good place to rest.

Sitting on a non-moss covered log I see the white tail of a deer, then another tail and another tail. Deer heads start popping out of the low brush; I am resting in the herd’s nest. I count 15 deer and then some distant noise startles them and they start dashing off in the same direction. This is what I call the “Yes of the Blessing Moment” I was present and in the herd of a deer pack. They had no fear of me, or I of them, most expectedly since this preservation of wilderness has always been a sanctuary for no hunting. What a wonderful experience I had to be part of the herd if only for a moment; no judgments or fear, merely being one in the instant.