Embrace the quiet

If I am given the option, I choose in most situations to be alone. I am not a loner despite what others think. It’s just that I don’t require the presence of others to be happy.

Too many people, too much noise especially from people who talk and say nothing. These are the people who talk because they find their happiness on that side of the world. Unfortunately I and others like me are outnumbered and as such we are the ones who are looked down upon. We are often questioned “Why don’t you like people?” There are an assortment of other questions and with my response I do not mean to be mean or nasty when I say, “I don’t like most other people.” I certainly do not require the presence of for my happiness.

I like the peace and solitude in which I find quiet.

John Burroughs the naturalist who never really reached the acclaim of other outdoor philosophers such as Thoreau, Muir and Emerson was heard to say, “Communing with God is communing with our own hearts, our own best selves, not with something foreign and accidental. Saints and devotees have gone into the wilderness to find God; of course they took God with them, and the silence and detachments enabled them to hear the still, small voice of their own souls, as one hears the ticking of his own watch in the stillness of the night.” Those who struggle to find the beauty in silence are condemned to hear the utterances of their own voices and have only that noise as companionship.

life guard house panorama B & W

As I took the time to saunter along the beach, crowded with others but alone with the thoughts in my head, I was reminded of the contentment which I achieve when I saunter alone. I enjoy just taking in the scenery and wish to share it with others and am dumbfounded by those who look at the scene in which I find awe and simply state, “That’s nice.” Those are not the individuals with whom I wish to spend my alone time.

When I saunter, I prefer to do it by foot. Either walking or on one of my daily runs will do. When I run, especially on the weekends, I prefer to do it at a time where I can reach certain locations at just the right time. The “right time” is the time I can be on a certain bridge or along the river front to be able to stop and take in the sunrise or to simply stop and take in the beauty which is often missed by others.

I need to saunter more often and embrace the quiet.

Namaste

 

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The Gospel of Nature

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude.

I am here.

I stopped by the Niagara River this evening with my journal in hand. I needed to see the sunset, to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, to feel the breeze and listen to the sound of crickets as their music entertains my ears. Those things are integral to me and to my ability to feel grounded in the insanity with which we define our world.

In between peeks at the setting sun, I was reading an essay by John Burroughs called, “The Gospel of Nature.” I am struggling to maintain my focus as I read, the sounds of nature are overpowering but in a good way.

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.
A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.
Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

Recently we experienced a full moon, a Supermoon. The brilliance of the light reflected will provide enough light to continue to read but I decide against continuing to read and instead focus on my breath. I time my breath with the sound of water lapping at the shoreline.

Namaste

I am home…again

I write with hands clasped in gratitude and in prayer.

I returned from an all too brief trip to the Adirondacks. There are an equal number of philosophical questions remaining as there were prior to my departure. This quote from Charles Bukowski is cause for my continued reflection. Charles said, “The freeway always reminds you of what most people are. It´s a competitive society. They want you to lose so they can win.” This concept of competitiveness is one which I no longer comprehend. I barely comprehended this concept when I was younger and am unsure that I ever did. Perhaps it is age and the accompanying maturity. Competitiveness is a concept with which I struggle, especially as I grow older. In the four days which I spent in the Adirondacks, I spoke to no more than four people. Two of those “conversations” were to place an order for food so I am unsure if they qualify for the definition of “conversation”.

I arrived on the Rock River trail and breathed a sigh of relief that there were no cars at the trailhead. This meant, at least for the time being that this would be a solitary trail run. As I approached the sign in, a smile formed on my lips as I noticed there were no other signatures indicating hikers or trail runners remaining on the trail. After signing in at the trailhead, I began my trail run on a soft, leaf covered trail. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the trees bare of leaves, reminded me of Fall. This trail, I am guessing is a seldom used trail. I worked my way over a few rolling hills before descending to a low-land area with Rock Lake on my right.

Rock Lake

I was able to see the lake through the trees which, at this time of year remain naked. The buds on the accompanying branches not yet exposing their secret. Another hundred yards down the trail and I heard the sound of water cascading over large rocks. This would be Rock Creek. I stood in the middle of the footbridge spanning the creek, the sound of the creek louder than I had expected considering the width of the creek was no more than ten feet. I was reminded that everything, especially to me is louder than what would be expected in the Adirondacks. I was also reminded of this fact as I perused the headstones in a cemetery at the entrance to the park. A break in traffic passing the cemetery left me in total silence save for what appeared to be a buzzing in my ears. Perhaps the buzzing was me adjusting from the constant bombardment of noise to the profoundness of the Adirondack silence.

Rock Creek

John Burroughs in “The Art of Seeing Things” said, “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination,—health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul. To the scientist Nature is a storehouse of facts, laws, processes; to the artist she is a storehouse of pictures; to the poet she is a storehouse of images, fancies, a source of inspiration; to the moralist she is a storehouse of precepts and parables; to all she may be a source of knowledge and joy.”

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As I made my way back on this 3-mile out and back trail, I decided to branch off onto another trail. This trail was no longer marked by the “hiking” blazes but by red “snowmobile” blazes. This trail was wider and marked by more frequent changes in elevation. It also extended this run from 6 miles to 14.5 miles with an elevation gain of over 1000′.

In his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, John Burroughs shared the following thought, “So far as seeing things is an art, it is the art of keeping your eyes and ears open. The art of nature is all in the direction of concealment. The birds, the animals, all the wild creatures, for the most part try to elude your observation. The art of the bird is to hide her nest; the art of the game you are in quest of is to make itself invisible. The flower seeks to attract the bee and the moth by its color and perfume, because they are of service to it; but I presume it would hide from the excursionists and the picnickers if it could, because they extirpate it. Power of attention and a mind sensitive to outward objects, in these lies the secret of seeing things. Can you bring all your faculties to the front, like a house with many faces at the doors and windows; or do you live retired within yourself, shut up in your own meditations? The thinker puts all the powers of his mind in reflection: the observer puts all the powers of his mind in perception; every faculty is directed outward; the whole mind sees through the eye and hears through the ear. He has an objective turn of mind as opposed to a subjective. A person with the latter turn of mind sees little. If you are occupied with your own thoughts, you may go through a museum of curiosities and observe nothing.”

Path

Little could have been more beautiful this day. Sunlight began to drift through the bare limbs of the many trees. Silence, other than my breathing and footfalls was my musical accompaniment. Grtatitude for my breath. Gratitude for my eyes and my ability to take in such beautiful sights. Gratitude for my ears both to hear the sounds around me as well as to hear the silence in which I find so much solitude.

May you be able to experience such beauty in your life.

Namaste

 

A Sunday hike

I have not written, other than in my journal in some time. There are small pangs of guilt when I do not write as I think, “Will readers of my blog be upset?” I try not to focus on these thoughts and write when the mood strikes me. I am much more interested in writing something which appeals to the senses instead of filling white space on a page.

 
I woke Sunday and smiled as the forecast for the day promised sun throughout. Anyone who lives in the Northeast understands the importance of seeing the sun. At least for me, the sun, or more importantly seeing the brilliant rays of the sun is integral to my mood. While sunlight increases our body’s ability to make Vitamin D, it is also important to ease the bouts of sadness and depression which can also accompany this time of year.
 
Our economy continues to struggle. Daylight is scarce as sunset is at 4:45 PM. I drive to my office in the dark and return home in the dark. My thoughts went in the direction of running trails at a local park but this desire rapidly waned as I thought about going for a hike with my son. I went to his room and he smiled as he agreed to rise and walk with me. 
 
Both of us are Introverts. Anyone riding in a car with us or spending much time with us might wonder about the quality of our relationship. We spend little time speaking to each other but at the same time understand completely our feelings for each other. To understand this, one must be an Introvert. We do not require any special circumstances to fill the silent void which sits comfortably between us. My son updated me on his progress at college. As he did so i smiled inside listening to his desire to follow through with his goals; the happiness in his voice testament to his internal happiness.
 
We arrived at our destination. I donned a small pack carrying my journal and a fountain pen and a bottle of water. I attached my GoPro camera to a pole and off we went. The conversation on our walk was limited as it was on our drive to the trailhead. We both understand and agree we are acceptant of this quiet. It is the solitude for which I look forward to experiencing and I believe this is true for Stephen. We did not discuss this as there was no need to do so; our silence filled with understanding of each other as well as our need for solitude.
 
Thoreau said, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” These words spoken by Thoreau when he wrote his journal are words which resonate with me. I rise at 4:30 AM most days of the week, don my running clothing and step out the door to begin my day. Questions from those around me pummel me at various times throughout the day. Previously I would become angry with these questions, dismissing them as “stupid” and “ridiculous”. As I grow older I have come to accept the differing opinions of others even when they seem to me to be far fetched. It is questions such as “Isn’t it cold outside?” Of course it is, it’s the middle of winter. “Why do you get up so early in the morning?” This is the time of day as Thoreau has mentioned earlier which sets the tone for my day. It helps me maintain a healthy balance when navigating through the chaos which others seem to thrive upon. This pace, the one apparently so loved by others is not loved by me. I will not say it is “hated” but that term remains in my head.
 
We drove home, again in almost complete silence. The trees passing by in a blur. A smile on my face indicating the happiness which has been gained; a happiness which will accompany me throughout the day and into the night.
 
Find those things, those activities which bring you happiness. Resist the urge to jump into the stream of life and travel along with all of the other souls on a path which causes more stress and ill-health, a path which brings unhappiness to most of us. Once you have identified those activities, do them. Do them as frequently as possible. make a change in your life that is based on happiness and enjoying your life. 
 
Happiness comes from within. It does not come from material possessions or things. Identify the people and the activities which bring this happiness to you. Cherish it and do not allow its importance to be tarnished by those around you. Assess the gifts in your life; your family, your children, your health, your happiness. Do not give these gifts, this happiness away to those who do not understand it. Cherish it. Smile. Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.
 
Namaste
 

Walking and Thinking

Walking and Thinking

Early afternoon and the blue sky, covered now and then with pillow like clouds being pushed by a breeze which reminded us that winter was recently left behind. As I walked the stone road along the edge of the lake with my dog, the temperatures in the high thirties with a windchill pushing it down into the low thirties causes me to grit my teeth and be thankful I carried gloves with me.

I walked the stone road until I reached the bend in the lake. I sat on the edge of a smooth granite slab, my legs dangling over the edge, feet almost touching the water. Jack, my dog walked to the edge and sat beside me. The slab warmed by the sun. I watched as fish rose from time to time and the breeze blowing gently across the water’s surface causing small ripples.

This time of year, on this side of the lake few others venture allowing me the solitude which I sought. I became restless after a few minutes, thoughts racing around in my head. I unzipped my backpack and retrieved my journal and fountain pen. I began to write about the activities of the week which had just ended. The double bombing Monday morning at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the explosion at the factory outside Waco, Texas and the activities on Friday which saw one of the alleged bombers killed and the other taken into custody.

As a social worker and also as one who cherishes his sanity and the solitude which he creates around him; I found myself not paying much attention directly to those actions, but they remained in my thoughts. Why would someone do such a thing? This is a particular thought which I allow to come and go, never allowing it to spend much time in the forefront of my thoughts because I know anxiety and poor sleep will not be far behind.

It is times such as these that I turn to my long deceased friends Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, John Borroughs and Ralph Waldo Emerson to help me make sense of such things. They are of little direct help other than to remind me that there are some things in life for which logical sense will never be made. Instead I turn my tangled web of thoughts to those things which I can understand; nature. The solitude and solace provided by nature begins the process of untangling those thoughts. Here things are much simpler, as they should be. Henry thought a walk spoiled when he couldn’t out-pace the town and its news and when his mid was not successful shedding that news and those thoughts.

I began to think of my walk as spoiled so I retreat further into the solace and solitude brought to me by my walk in nature. I focused my breath and with shaky hand wrote and wrote; thoughts streaming forth as if from a faucet left on. Here amidst the pine trees and the rippling water I can breathe again. My breath comes easier, more rhythmic. Here my tangle of thoughts continues to unwind.

After a short time my thinking becomes increasingly clear. I can hear the chirping of nearby birds and the ripple of the water as the breeze, now more noticeable continues to disturb the once placid surface of the pond.

The walk has done its job. My thoughts, slowed to a snail’s pace are now clear. I acknowledge there is no sense to be made of this past weeks events and it is better to leave them where they began. I cap my fountain pen, close my journal and cinch the cord tight around the smooth leather binding. I sit for a few more minutes and decide it is time to go. Jack and I make the return walk to our car; my heart and head lighter from this walk.

It is humbling to know these thoughts will return again. It is comforting to know I have the woods in which to walk to help make sense of what I can to lighten my load.

Namaste

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Morning

I woke this morning for my run eager with anticipation. I love the morning. I love the dark morning.

After lacing my running shoes and setting my watch, I walk to the front porch where I sit briefly drinking in the quiet. I own this time. I smile with anticipation as I think within the next five miles I will be passed by only a handful of cars. I look up from my perch on the steps toward the star strewn heavens and I just know everything will be alright. I clasp my hands together and utter a quiet “Namaste” to the world. As I reach the end of the driveway I start my watch and my therapy session begins.

As I run I think. This is a process over which I have little control. Most thoughts are transient and rapidly lost with each step. Often as I complete a run little remains of most thoughts. A shred here or there which is lost almost as quickly. If the remaining thoughts are lucky enough to survive, I will write these in my journal where they will remain, a reminder of my run and the joy which follows. Some of these thoughts retain enough strength that they accompany me throughout the day. They nag at me like a small child who nags at her father’s coat tails. These are the thoughts of which more will be written.

As my breath and stride come into synch I marvel at the cleanliness of the morning air. Smells which are often lost through the day become increasingly pronounced and hold their position of prominence. Some smells bring smiles and warm memories while others are accompanied by a wince and a quickened stride.

Noises during this time are few; a barking dog, a squirrel running across the road his nails scratching the surface of the road. The occasional car as it passes. My favorite sound during Fall is the sound the leaves make as they crunch beneath my feet with every step. Another amazing sound is the one made by leaves as they quietly detach from their perch high above and lazily drift toward their final resting place. This too is quite a sight. It is as if I am being treated to my own private theatre production starring nature.

When I run along the river I know I can be treated to the fresh small of the water as it makes its trip toward the Falls and beyond. On a cloudless and moonlit morning, I am treated to the moon’s reflection as it is scattered across the placid surface of the mighty Niagara River These are the views which force me to stop, breath, and drink in the beauty and solitude which has enveloped me since the beginning. I stand in awe of all that is beautiful. These are the times which I take to think of the writings of people like Thoreau, Emerson and Burroughs. My favorite quote from one of my favorite books, John Burroughs, “The Art of Seeing Things.” John says, “The art of seeing things is not something that may be conveyed in rules and precepts; it is a matter vital in the eye and ear, yea, in the mind and soul, of which these are the organs.”

As I pass beneath street-lamps my breath, as it rises in clouds becomes illuminated. As my takes me toward darkened streets where my headlamp is my only illumination, my senses become keener. My breath more noticeable. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet louder. It is at this time I also become more aware of my surroundings. I become one with my surroundings.

In another quote by John, he says, “There is nothing in which people differ more than in their powers of observation. Some are only half alive to what is going on around them. Others, again, are keenly alive: their intelligence, their powers of recognition, are in full force in eye and ear at all times.” It is this time of day which finds me fully alive. It is the activity which I do for me which allows me to mentally and physically prepare for each day. As I said earlier, “This is my therapy” for without it my walls would crumble.

Namaste