The Wilderness Within
Beautiful intro music by Anna Pallotta, cover of Regina Spektor
I hope the world isn't hurting you too much these days. What have you been up to? Today the sun came in through the clouds and the south facing windows. It made me remember how important it is to notice things like that. For a span of time, to have just a few thoughts of my own.
But, I know you have felt a lot of that lately. Being alone has been the theme lately. As I looked at the lonely looking clouds I listened to some music this morning. And that reminded me of how great it is to share a feeling with someone else. To be able to talk and to share things.
The sun was bright as I trespassed through the grassy field filled full of broken down cars at a turn in the gravel road. Through the fragrant woods I walked, to a trail flagged by hanging plastic tape. Up into the ferns and alder slopes, then along and above a draw into the darkness of a spruce wood. Out into the sunlight again on the flat of a ridge I went. Then down a gravel logging road, looking into the trimmed firs on both sides for a way through the ferns and stacked thinning piles. I struggled through the head high brush for a time and then saw a few boulders seated amidst a low natural spring, where deer, squirrels, and birds come to drink. In the distance a pileated woodpecker seesawed his way up a tree trunk, and in the distance were bright maple leaves signalling a direction to walk in. Following my eyes, to where looked best, I came to a two-stemmed cedar near a little marsh. I cleared some brush off the uneven ground. I sat down and gathered a few twigs. I started a fire in a folding wood stove to make doug fir tea.
As the tea simmered I used a small axe to notch a rotting alder so as to mark, from a distance, this space I had found by the brightness of fresh cut wood. I gathered handfuls of alder twigs to stoke the small fire. I fed the fire and smelled the smoke of the alder, and the spicy smoke of a few cedar twigs.
After the fire burned down I sipped tea, and watched the light fade in the West, through the tree trunks. Far below a car or two passed. Not too far aside from where I sat a gravel road ran where people would sometimes walk their dogs. But no person ever came back to where I was.
In this space, not silent, not far away, I came to contemplate. Indeed, to think on certain things.
I have heard of such a place—kept in mind, or in physical space. A place of refuge. Yet the tendrils of certain things still creep in. The sound of a car below, a plane above, of someone walking their dog—calls me back to a moment out the window with a small chickadee, eating seed. A truck blasted by on the road above, which made the chickadee flee, to the grape vines above the ground.
As the world shrinks smaller, the footprint of our sounds grow larger. And where is the wilderness left to be seen, burned by fires, trees, no leaves, salvage logged and steel cabled, to the cry of more people who need jobs to live on.
And it all sinks into me, in this quiet place under these young trees. A deep breath, then another, as the light fades further and the leaves open their own stomata to breathe. And I breathe too. And so we together breathe.
“We practice in order to cultivate a sense of agency. To understand that a range of responses are open to us. We practice to remember to breathe.
To have space in the midst of adversity.
To remember our values,
and to see
what we really care about.
We practice to find support in our inner strength,
and in one another.”
— Sharon Salzberg