Walking and Thinking
Early afternoon and the blue sky, covered now and then with pillow like clouds being pushed by a breeze which reminded us that winter was recently left behind. As I walked the stone road along the edge of the lake with my dog, the temperatures in the high thirties with a windchill pushing it down into the low thirties causes me to grit my teeth and be thankful I carried gloves with me.
I walked the stone road until I reached the bend in the lake. I sat on the edge of a smooth granite slab, my legs dangling over the edge, feet almost touching the water. Jack, my dog walked to the edge and sat beside me. The slab warmed by the sun. I watched as fish rose from time to time and the breeze blowing gently across the water’s surface causing small ripples.
This time of year, on this side of the lake few others venture allowing me the solitude which I sought. I became restless after a few minutes, thoughts racing around in my head. I unzipped my backpack and retrieved my journal and fountain pen. I began to write about the activities of the week which had just ended. The double bombing Monday morning at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the explosion at the factory outside Waco, Texas and the activities on Friday which saw one of the alleged bombers killed and the other taken into custody.
As a social worker and also as one who cherishes his sanity and the solitude which he creates around him; I found myself not paying much attention directly to those actions, but they remained in my thoughts. Why would someone do such a thing? This is a particular thought which I allow to come and go, never allowing it to spend much time in the forefront of my thoughts because I know anxiety and poor sleep will not be far behind.
It is times such as these that I turn to my long deceased friends Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, John Borroughs and Ralph Waldo Emerson to help me make sense of such things. They are of little direct help other than to remind me that there are some things in life for which logical sense will never be made. Instead I turn my tangled web of thoughts to those things which I can understand; nature. The solitude and solace provided by nature begins the process of untangling those thoughts. Here things are much simpler, as they should be. Henry thought a walk spoiled when he couldn’t out-pace the town and its news and when his mid was not successful shedding that news and those thoughts.
I began to think of my walk as spoiled so I retreat further into the solace and solitude brought to me by my walk in nature. I focused my breath and with shaky hand wrote and wrote; thoughts streaming forth as if from a faucet left on. Here amidst the pine trees and the rippling water I can breathe again. My breath comes easier, more rhythmic. Here my tangle of thoughts continues to unwind.
After a short time my thinking becomes increasingly clear. I can hear the chirping of nearby birds and the ripple of the water as the breeze, now more noticeable continues to disturb the once placid surface of the pond.
The walk has done its job. My thoughts, slowed to a snail’s pace are now clear. I acknowledge there is no sense to be made of this past weeks events and it is better to leave them where they began. I cap my fountain pen, close my journal and cinch the cord tight around the smooth leather binding. I sit for a few more minutes and decide it is time to go. Jack and I make the return walk to our car; my heart and head lighter from this walk.
It is humbling to know these thoughts will return again. It is comforting to know I have the woods in which to walk to help make sense of what I can to lighten my load.
This is a serendipitous photo taken during my most recent trip to the Adirondack’s.
As a lover of sunlight, especially sunrises and sunsets, this photo speaks volumes to me.
I hope you derive as much peace from this photo as I do.
If you would like to purchase a print, message me via the comment section.
My cell phone often accompanies me on my runs…especially those early morning runs where the slightest wisp of sunlight may also accompany me.
Enjoy & Namaste
Words are violence, Break the silence, Come crashing in, Into my little world , Painful to me, Pierce right through me, Can’t you understand, Oh my little girls.
All I ever wanted, All I ever needed, Is here in my arms, Words are very unnecessary, They can only do harm.
- Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence
Words from one of my favorite bands. I thought of writing these thoughts after I asked myself what it is I enjoy about trail running, road running at 4AM and my Sunday drives to a park in Niagara Falls with my dog. It is the silence which I enjoy.
As we drove yesterday, returning from the park; I wrestled with the notion of stopping to see my parent’s. Guilt, then my love for them were my motivators.
I have been very busy lately and while I dislike excuses, this is a fact. Twelve hour days have been my norm and when you are an Introvert you must find your silence somewhere. I had called my mother the previous week to “check-in” and see how her and my father were fairing. I apologized, more out of feeling guilty for not being able to stop and visit on other occasions. On this day when I was greeted at the door I was met with a hint of sarcasm. My mother said, “Well, very nice to see you!” This sounds benign I know but one must understand the nature of my mother’s fear. A fear which she manages poorly and wishes to share with those in her presence.
We sat and talked, or more accurately my mother talked. She does this when she feels there is a void which must be filled. I have never been much for small talk. I find the expenditure of such energy senseless. I am also perfectly comfortable with silence.
We went through the list of superficial questions, “How are the kids? They don’t call here.” How’s Nancy? We don’t hear from her. Is she angry with us?” In the past one would have found me plying a defensive posture, answering the questions in what I hoped was an even tone, then once I had left I would have exploded and found the remainder of my day going down in flames like a fighter jet on the losing side of a dog fight. These days my response is grounded in solitude and respect. I know longer “blow up” but now sit quietly and meditate on the words handed to me as if carved from a block with a dull knife. I suggest to those involved in such conversations if it is accurate responses which are desired, the questions should be posed directly to the individual about whom the question is centered. As you can imagine, this is met with frustration followed by silence as the other parties attempt to ascertain some deeper meaning in my words. Do not look deeply for there is no deeper meaning.
Shortly after the simple pleasantries were exhausted we found ourselves sitting in silence. A quick glance around the room identified the level of discomfort felt by the others. My father and I have always been able to converse and discuss things. He is more open minded than my mother who holds very strong convictions and finds no difficulty sharing her thoughts with you. Her discomfort is noticed when she finds herself rising during the conversation to engage in some form of idle busywork. This is her way of disengaging from the conversation and letting you know she is right and thus the conversation can end.
In the past, my conversation, as much as I enjoy my father’s way of participating, was unfortunately more like that of my mother. I found myself leaving conversations feeling exhausted; as if I had accomplished nothing. These conversations are not debates, some elected office is not held in the balance.
Today, I find it much easier to listen, for this is a skill which is practiced not nearly enough. The naturalist John Burroughs wrote in his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, “The art of seeing things is not something that may be conveyed in rules and precepts; it is a matter vital in the eye and ear, yea, in the mind and soul, of which these are the organs.”
In as much as there is an art in seeing things, there is as great an art in hearing things.
I enjoy the silence.
I stopped in front of the sign which says “Entering Adirondack Park.” I grow quiet as the entrance to the park approaches. My thoughts turn to happy times spent in the solitude offered by the park.
Some do not understand my quiet. They also do not understand my desire, my need for the solitude of which I speak. It is not for them to understand. This is my gift and I will cherish it. This same gift is available to all who choose to acknowledge, to be mindful of its presence.
After a meal and a pot of coffee, I dressed and went for a walk. Several cars sped down the road, their tires kicking up clouds of salt dust. I waited several minutes and anticipated the silence that would follow the absence of cars. Then it arrived. Silence in this part of the world is overwhelming, almost deafening. My ears strained to hear something, yet there was no sound.
My thoughts turned to the violent world in which we live. Our ears are assaulted everyday by a multitude of sounds. Sounds we hear and take for granted everyday. I find it interesting to think about the number of sounds we hear everyday. It is difficult to think of a life without sound. It is equally difficult to try and imagine identifying each of those sounds.
Try it. If you don’t have the ability to get away from sound, turn off the tv, telephone and radio. Retreat to a room where you can be insulated from as much ambient sound as possible. It is an amazing, almost frightening sensation. Our thoughts begin to race and we become overwhelmed with fear because we are not accustomed to the sound of silence. Sit with this silence for a period of time. Be mindful of the way you begin to feel as you become increasingly relaxed.
If you listen to the silence, you will also allow yourself to accept the gift of solitude.
I drove down the street, my destination work. The car in front of me repeatedly depressed the brake pedal, brake lights flashing. I looked beyond that car and saw a school bus. The brake lights continued to flash. I watched as the same car repeatedly veered left toward the center line. I’ve seen this maneuver before. The driver appeared to be looking around the bus. Then it happened. I’m not sure why I’m stunned because I am the individual who waits for a second at green lights to allow those in a hurry to run the red light. The school bus tailgater passed the bus on a double yellow while it was stopped and had it’s flashing lights on. This is one of those times when I am happy to have a cell phone. The police did receive a call from me and hopefully this person received the ticket and admonition they deserve. These are the same individuals who careen carelessly through life on autopilot. Their only goal falls within their narrow range of vision.
I’m still not sure why the world is in such a hurry. When was the last time hurrying anywhere for anything actually got you ahead in life. Surely the additional stress you’re experiencing isn’t worth the effort.
What is it we’re afraid of? Why is it so difficult to get up a few minutes earlier in the morning, to go to bed a few minutes earlier? What is it we are afraid we will miss?
We have become deluded to believe things such as Facebook and Twitter are more important than spending time doing something constructive, like living our lives.
I am in the process of closing my photography business. The stress caused in my life by younger people who several months after their wedding have still not chosen the photos for their album complaining in a dramatic fashion, “I’m so busy!” I truly lack any level of understanding of such a statement. This, to me, is nothing more than a simple minded excuse. I’m being asked to tie up my income for an undetermined period of time because you’re “so busy!” I don’t want to close my business but my love for this art form is waning.
The excuses I hear throughout the day from tardy patients, lazy individuals who are “too busy” is simply frustrating. Closing my photo business is a good thing. I am not interested in the additional stress and excuses that others choose to use as the rules for which they live their life.
I refuse to change my life to bend to the whims of others for such ridiculousness. I will not drive faster because you are tailgating me. When you forward your photos for your wedding album several months after your wedding and the new wedding season has begun, I’ll get to your book when I have a chance. I would do it now, but “I’m so busy!”
These are the times when I think of my friend Thoreau and long to “simplify.” Closing my photo business is my first step in this process.
I will find myself in the Adirondack mountains in two weeks. I will relish the solitude; the silence and the peace offered by the winter landscape.
I woke this morning physically ready for my run. The “beautiful pain” left over from the previous day’s run had subsided. A quiet air of excitement and anticipation helped me wake with relative ease.
Physically I was ready…emotionally was another story. I sat on the edge of the bed and listened to the wind blowing. It rattled the wires against the side of the house letting me know it was to be a formidable foe. A quick check of the weather indicated the temperature with the windchill at this early hour was to remain in the single digits. I thought, just for a second, about returning to bed; but a glance again at the weather allowed me to see that at some time this morning my waking hours would be accompanied by the sun. It was this belief, that the sun would be a partner of mine today that caused a smile to cross my face and a decision to be made to rise and go for a run.
Seeing the sun today brought a smile to my face and for this I am thankful.
“One must maintain a little bit of summer…even in the middle of winter.” -Henry David Thoreau