I’ve set my sights on a day off alone before the long days of summer disappear. I have a particular locale in mind, at least for a good part of the day. Fountain Hill Cemetery right here in town boasts a small but lively manmade pond—one we have walked to after many school days to hunt for tadpoles and frogs. If we’re lucky, we see the rare heron, coyote, or fox. It’s no wilderness, and some might say a cemetery is an odd choice for spending time, at least before your time has come. But I like my nature mixed with history sometimes, and don’t feel any distaste for the residents who share the space—hopefully they have some knowledge that they are surrounded by beauty.
Our visits to the pond have always been times between–after school drop off and before work I have had walks there alone among the grassy hills , and strolls there after school have been limited by homework and dinner deadlines. On my last visit, I found myself wishing I could just sit quietly and watch the pond, and then sit quietly and watch some more.
I picked up an old favorite today–Flat Rock Journal by Ken Carey. My timing was only a little off–just past summer solstice here and what I read was about an April or May tradition he and his wife kept. They’d each get a chance to “throw a few things in a backpack and set out to enjoy a day in the forest…Appreciation of the natural world draws out a self within us that knows what we, in our busyness, often forget.” His words that follow have me recognizing the urgent need for this kind of day:
I remember things in the forest, things I never intended to forget. Things that, as a child, I would not have believed could be forgotten. Johnny, our four-year-old, sometimes tells me of having seen faces in doorknobs or hearing voices among the trees–as if he senses some dimension within and behind what is culturally seen, an alam al mithal, as the Sufis say, where awareness saturates every particle, and beings inhabit all things.
Outdoors, immersed in nature’s season of renewal, there are moments, I find, when such perception comes. Moments when my awareness recognizes itself in all I see, and every pebble and leaf and tree looks back at me, mirroring some facet of myself.
When I feel I have been too long without this awareness, I know it is time once more to strike out alone into the forest, to experience a day among animals, trees, and open sky.