September 11, 2018

the same landscape

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.


  1. Yes, I can relate to this so completely, and I suspect I would have done the same as you - for every place along that path is ensouled, and worth creating a relationship with, and I've never understood the traipse to "get somewhere" because everywhere is somewhere. I usually travel with destination-oriented people and it can be awfully painful, like seeing a man with fascinating eyes and not being able to stop and talk to him, or a woman with stars in her long white hair and not being able to ask her name. Just rushing past to "get somewhere". I think so many humans are essentially self-centred, and consider nature (and other people) as a backdrop to their lives, a mirror for their inner experiences, a prompt for thoughts and emotions, rather than another living being with whom one can have a true soul conversation.

    You have written so beautifully about your time with the river, I feel I am there too. Thank you so much for sharing it xx

  2. oh, thank you for your comment!

    it's so hard to travel with "linear" people... my ex-husband was like that: rush along, tick off sights on The List of Important Sights, never just existing in a place or truly seeing it deeply. he was always astonished when i could say more about a place that we visited then he...but he wasn't really looking at anything, or having feelings about it. very odd, but i suspect, quite common?

    the world and others are not (should not be) a mirror, but partners in a conversation or dance. "soul conversation", as you put it rightly. :)

  3. I loved reading this!
    I don't know why some people are more in-tune to life and notice everything--see and *feel* everything--so deeply while others do not. I am not fully convinced that those who are in-tune with nature, art, poetry, etc. are less selfish than those who aren't. I do think, however, that they are easily and often misunderstood by less sensitive people, and there are fewer of them in the population, which, in itself, can be hard.

    From one deeply sensitive person to another, much love to you. ♥

    1. yes, it's not so much being less selfish as it is simply being better listeners, better observers? or maybe even more elemental than that: maybe better at communion. more able to see the one-ness of all things/beings? hmmm...will think on it!

      and many thanks! :)


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