I went hiking with some people who were all more of the doing type, while I am only, or mostly, a being type. Partway through our planned route, we came to a beautiful spot by a bend of a small river, where there were a few trees making gracious shade, and large flat rocks beckoning to be a seat there by the river's voice. I decided to remain there, while they continued onward. I watched them grow smaller as they moved into the distance, following the curve of the path ever upward into the hills. Where I sat was high enough to see the sagebrush rolling out and down, to see some of the river's path to lower land, and the higher hills in a dark, protective curve behind and to the north of me. I sat in the shade, resting, and breathing in the scent of the sage, the smell of warm stones and sand. I listened to the slight sounds of dry grasses and leaves moving when the wind moved over us, and the small song of the river caressing its stony bed. This was its early autumn song; it would sing a louder one, no doubt, and do a wilder dance, come spring, when the snows melted on the hillsides and flowed into its course. Insects in the brush sang in bursts, a lone hawk moved high overhead in hieratic circles; and somewhere hidden from me, a bird called in notes I didn't recognise, so I couldn't put a human name to the bird, only listen and love it wordlessly, as a guest in its home. The whole place shimmered with the joy of sunlight on water, the gratitude of moisture in a dry land. I pulled off my boots and socks, rolled up my trousers, slipped out of my shirt, and waded into the water. Surprisingly cool under the strong desert sun, it drew the fatigue of walking from me and filled me with the same joy or wordless peace that lay over all the place, that was written on the sky in the hawk's flight and the high thin clouds drifting, that was in the song of the bird and the insects and the leaves and the water.
I don't know how long I sat in the river or drowsed there afterward on the shaded rocks. I drank a little of the river water, sacramentally, although I had a full bottle in my pack. I ate a bit of the food I'd brought. My clothes dried, I put my shirt on again. I became part of the song there, in my silence; sometimes, you have to be silent to be truly part of a song: this is a mystery.
Eventually, the others returned. They rejoined me, speaking about the wide views they had enjoyed from the ridge tops, moving as a group to the river to splash hot faces and arms, though no one else drank from it. They talked of the snake they had glimpsed at the edge of the path, and the steepness of the last section of the climb. They asked me what I had been doing there, all that time, and I said lamely that I had been resting on the rocks and listening to things. That I had gone into the river for a bit. That it was a very comforting place. I said the kinds of things that being people say to doing people, knowing that it wouldn't mean much. Then we all got up, putting on our packs and hats, making ready to hike back out. I dipped my cotton scarf into the water and tied it wet around my neck, for coolness, but also to keep the kindly spirit of the river with me as long as I could. In silence, I said my farewells to the river and the stones; the earth and the sage; the trees, the sky, the hawk; the hidden insects and unknown bird.
I didn't miss the view from the hills. I didn't miss the conquering exertion of the climb, the 'achievement' of it. I wondered if any of them felt a kinship with the hawk up there on the ridge, or if their spirits had time to hear the song of the land as they moved through it. I wondered how different the wind sounded up there, and if they noticed it. I wondered what they would remember of the place later. Somehow, I was especially happy to rest in being more and doing less that day. I would carry the taste of that water with me, and the scents and sounds and shifting light and colours, forever. I would have the peace of that place in my bones.