Tuesday, November 11, 2014

the art of sauntering

Fall Song
Mary Oliver

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.


Home improvements are good.  Truly, they are.  But when you work from home and there are men in your basement for weeks, wrenching old piping out and cutting and welding in new and connecting with blow torches to the new heating system, it can be a bit noisy.  And it is really hard to get your flow going when someone might appear in the room with you at any moment.  I do work best in solitude.

And so, when I drove into the driveway yesterday morning, opened my car door and heard the jolting sound of the nail gun as the woodshed received its roof shingles and saw two trucks on the lawn with the bulkhead door open and could hear the clangs and slicing and loud voices coming from within, I made a quick and firm decision.

I was going for a walk.  I ran about and did the things that needed to be done, compost, chicken care, breakfast cleanup.  And then I grabbed my mellowest, more disturbed by strangers in the house dog, Sirius, and went for a walk.


Portland Trails is a network of 70 miles of trails here in the Portland area.  We are fortunate to be able to walk to several of the trails from our house.  One runs along the opposite bank of our river, and this is where Sirius and I headed.

It is that time of year that can be overlooked, the time between the bright colors of the fall foliage and the coming snow.  But it is not to be missed.  The light, the colors, the quiet, the solitude.  It is all a bit softer, gentler.  A time when the textures are in focus, the brightness of light dimmed just enough that you feel what you see.  Bark, seen, brings a sensorial tingling to your fingers.  Much like this time is in our family.  School transitions slowly easing, routines establishing.  The brightness, the anxiety, perhaps, is shed.  I even notice it in the easing of their voices, lower, less strained, more true.  And always, always, the reminders that time is passing, shifting.  There is so much that is quiet, subtle and yet still so very important, that could be missed, so much to notice these days.  

I watched Wet Side Story unfold between two separate flocks of ducks.  

We spent an hour walking that trail, and I returned more open, better exercised, and ready to jump into my work for the day, several thoughts worked through and better developed as I walked the trail.  I could even hear the nail gun thwacking out its nails from across the river.  But returning home, thoughts flowing, head clearer, practiced in noticing, what felt like cacophony when I left felt more like the music of our home.  The sound of things moving along, and I jumped back in and did my best dance amongst the chaos.
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understand the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering.
Henry David Thoreau

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