The things that I’m finding solace in—that have become nurturing for me—seem so trivial and mundane in the face of all the news. I don’t feel immune to any of the violence, the fighting, the anger, the fear, the taking of human life that is erupting all over the world. It’s just not what I want to talk or write about. I feel like my discussing violence and abuse won’t stop it from happening, yet we desperately need to talk.
Recently, my neighbor decided to go to France and begin a walk along the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He is enjoying the simplicity of getting up each morning, putting on his shoes, and putting one foot in front of the other. When he was preparing to leave, I offered to light a candle and recite the short form of the Medicine Buddha mantra one hundred and eight times daily, for each day that he is on his journey. Are we lunatics for thinking healing energy will make a difference? I ask myself, what does reciting the Medicine Buddha mantra have to do with anything? Can it really help?
When I get up in the morning, after writing, I go for a walk in my neighborhood. Afterwards, I work in the garden. In the evenings, I go over to the Biltmore Estate and walk on the grounds with Kim. This simple act of walking and connecting with nature has become a different approach to finding my voice – different from the one I’ve had in the past.
I have to laugh when I say this. After reaching adulthood over 50 years ago, I have enjoyed living in cities. Except for going to the beach, dipping my feet in the surf, and sitting under an umbrella, I have not been the “outdoor, love-to-be-in-nature” type of person. I did love to walk in New York City, but “pounding the pavement” was quite different than walking in this West Asheville neighborhood or over at the Biltmore. For a long time after I moved here, I would say, “There’s nothing to see, there’s nothing happening!”
My relationship with the outdoors was “stay out of the poison ivy.” It’s beautiful looking through the car window! Oh no, not another bug! Is that a snake?
I never paid much attention to it, but walking had become a way of knowing what is in the air, of what is happening around me even if I can’t see it. The same was true for me in New York during the periods when I studied karate. The energy of the mountains, however, is quite different. The trees at the Biltmore, old and plentiful, make the air feel fresh. Despite the crush of tourists visiting in the summer, out on the paths and trails, it is quiet, peaceful, and tranquil – opposite the excitement I craved as a younger person.
Now I ask, is the river high? Do you think this fog will last? What does the surface of the lagoon tell me about the wind? What was planted in that field this time? Can we spot our wild friends – the deer, the turkeys, the geese, the black bears, who unlike the fenced-in horses, sheep, cattle, chickens, and goats – are never in the same place.
Summer is coming to an end, crickets in the morning, cicadas at night. Different shades of green now show patches of yellow, of red. People go down the river on tubes, in kayaks or canoes. Some ride horses on the trails. Some walk their dogs. Others walk or jog or ride bikes. People talk to each other, say hello, ask how I am and wait for an answer.
No vehicles beyond this point, just walking.