Lingering in Happiness
by Mary Oliver
from Why I Wake Early
After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear – but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.
I left for a walk today with a heart full of worries. The kind of worries that loop around on end ~ the repeating themes. These are the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives in another time and place, usually an unknown and unlikely future, and an imperfect past.
This trail through the forest feels welcoming ~ soft and forgiving under foot. The light today is soft also, mostly overcast, and only a whisper of wind. The forest is disinterested in my worries from its place of quiet contentment. My attention begins to shift to the trail ahead and my body moving along it.
In her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit describes walking as the alignment of the body, the mind, and the world, ‘three characters finally in conversation with each other, three notes suddenly making a chord’.
Walking has been a constant and pervasive thread in my life, carrying me through space and time ~ exploring, wandering, reflecting, and imagining. Even as a young child I loved walking ~ the movement of my body, the sound of my feet on the ground, the feeling of air on skin, the smells, and the inner and outer spaciousness found there. The peaceful rhythm of walking.
I love it still.
I’ve brought my camera with me and stop from time to time to take a photo. The trees here are huge, the thick canopy above allowing a bright green mossy ground cover. The sea comes into view, expansive, calm, and with complex patterns from the currents and movement of the water.
Gradually over time I begin to notice the smaller, more micro world ~ the moss and lichens, a patch of peeling bark, the spaces between the leaves, the peace at the end of the breath. The arbutus leaves that have fallen are curling in a patch of warm sun. As they curl they make a tiny dripping sound like rain falling. Delightful and sweet.
I am adjusting my lens, wide angle to macro to micro, noticing the different aspects of this place as they come in and out of focus. Then gradually shifting to see and feel it all, and bring my whole self into this place.
As I walk, my internal lens has changed as well. And as I begin my journey back to where I began, the sun now dipping to the west, a new story has emerged to replace the landscape of worry that I arrived with. And this is the new story:
I am here, walking along this forest trail.