Grass nearly glowers in the punctured inland sun. Clouds have climbed to cooler climes. Hills unfold the miles and dust these legs like well-sneezed clay. It sounds of yellow bugs and rolls and roils daytime shadows. These hands swell into impostors. These cheeks drool with a grime that stains a shirtsleeve black. These knees have not yet fainted; but soon, a break, I promise!
Just atop the next hill.
No, no, fine! The one after.
Well – maybe just that other one with shade. A blue oak can’t possibly boil in a spring day. Sure, it might simmer, but it comes with a bench! My head overrules any restless boots; here, a pause to sit.
O, the Greeks built temples; the Romans, their statues; and America, our benches! What will archaeologists think millennia from now, sifting through monuments to sitting? What about sitting longer? What about a nap?
This was not the place: the trail stretched for hours more. More than I remembered (though it seldom seems less). Walking, overworked and underwatered, I finally stepped out of my mind into roadside crowds. Any man, woman, or child knows the transition: from the state park to the state parking lot, from a buffet of senses to a senseless snack. Re-emerging into civilization is personally difficult, but not for the reason many would suspect. Did nature calm me? The rhythmic solitude my feet create does not result in a state of serenity. Don’t confuse recreation with meditation! Nature experienced at depth is more than calming:
Wild foals are calmed!
Calm is a breeze out to lunch.
Calm is the water that doesn’t ripple back.
Calm is the hand that rejects the phone’s vibrations.
Calm settles the peanut butter and jelly question: it is appropriate any time of day! Convertible dad and ice cream kid (before the spill) are calm.
Dry socks are calming.
Calm is a ripe word, a redolent word, and wrong. Exhaustion, exertion in the outdoors is more than a cup of chamomile tea.
The distinction between actions and reactions is paramount to every excursion outdoors. I push myself and I forget myself. A space is made for me to inhabit my curiosity, to experience myself in my surroundings without pressure to perform. Moments abound without cause for extroversion or introspection. Then, and only then, do I glimpse those grasses and those hills. They become more than themselves, investing me with a certain touch and sight – and when the wind blows just right – even taste.
It’s a wonderful thing to be full of wonder!
That buffet of senses becomes my moveable feast, as energetic as I choose. Even the most laconic day outside bursts with irregular shapes, those moments that arrive without warning and depart before comprehension. I’ve heard such fleeting seconds called Ecstasy. Maybe. I’d call it by name if I could pinpoint the feeling; trouble is I never recognize the beginning. But I do know the aftermath, the afterglow, the finale that seems to crescendo again and again and again…
And then it slows, before sinking, ceding ground to daily habits. What I am in the chaparral, I am not amongst buildings. Below – below, in the valley – I like all others, assume an Atlas position, and persuade myself of the weight my shoulders must carry. But tired and dirty, here in the Diablos, I don’t have the energy to wrap myself in myth. Instead, I fall back upon the senses, and they return a surplus. When I’m a tiger-without-wings-in-need-of-a-tickle, nature laughs my mind in-and-out-of-place. I expand and contract and wander and wonder. Enlivening is the least, and most, a hike will bring.
[Photo: “Long Ridge Juncture”, Reeva Harrison, reevaharrison.com]