Anatomy of a favorite tree …

A few months ago I was walking at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve when I came upon a young boy trying to re-find his favorite tree.  I so got having a favorite tree!  Although I couldn’t help him reconnect with his, I was able to have a full-out discussion about the importance of having such a tree — finding it each time; seeing it in the different seasons; noticing changes brought about by storms or infestations or life itself.  And, I couldn’t help out by sharing my tree; or, by mentioning another cool tree that I knew about — it’s a personal thing why a given tree “rings true” for an individual.

At another location, on the Hinshaw Greenway, I of course had yet another favorite tree for that stretch of the woods.  Having walked area greenways for 20+ years it’s more of a full-out tree relationship with the magnitude of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein; and, similar to the shifts and changes of Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” — except that my tree had three short chapters — life as a work of art, being marked for take-down (similar to the Scarlett Letter “A”), then leaving behind it’s essence in the remaining heart-shaped stump.  So here’s the story of my tree – in three short (photo) chapters:

Chapter 1:

Hinshaw Greenway - Favorite Tree, Sky

Hinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, knobsHinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, arty knot

Chapter 2:

Hinshaw Greenway - favorite tree, marked for cut-down





Chapter 3:

Hinshaw Greenway - Favorite tree, stump


Etch-a-Sketch Skies and Cloud Appreciation

011012 Sunrise cloudsI have developed great appreciation by simply looking up at the sky – inhaling the ever-changing cloud designs or the random checker-board vapor trails of jets.  Perhaps this focus has come about from working in windowless offices or from the recent up-tick in weather events in North Carolina.  But, my sense is that my slowing down to be intentionally mindful of sky patterns is at the core – and these other factors just amplify its impact.

040412 storm cloudsEach work day, I walk slowly into work – breathing in my final breaths of nature as if to hold onto its livingness for the entire workday; choosing the building entrance that bursts into a two-story, floor-to-ceiling glass-walled lobby that puts nature on a big-screen display; and, finishing on a hallway that dead-ends (live-ends?) at a window-wall which neatly frames a tree with its slo-mo seasonal shifts – do I really see what’s different with each passing day?

Every day the sky canvas is different – shifted quickly by the weather and what cloud types nature chooses to use as its paintbrush of the day.  It’s about seeing the design and stepping out of the judgment (too hot/too cold; too rainy/too snowy); it’s about finding the shapes that giddily look like something else; it’s about sensing the conditions that hold the potential for a rainbow siting.  I appreciate clouds!  There’s a group for that – The Cloud Appreciation Society.

Morning walks – human 1, red fox 1

CC red fox (Brian Hoffman)When you live near and walk on greenways (or trails for that matter) you should be open to seeing and interacting with nature as it presents itself (ah, the whole essence of nature is that it provides surprises, and we have no control).  I knew this from a place of thinking, but I really didn’t know this from a place of being.

My first encounter with said red fox was when I headed out the door for a morning meditation walk.  Five steps out the door I looked up and there sat the red fox at the end of the driveway.  I stared at him (her?), and he stared right back.  I mumbled “you win” (as my thinking brain went nuts with thoughts of bites and rabies) and headed back inside – forgoing my walk and settling for coffee.

My second encounter with said fox came midway through a morning meditation  walk.  My thinking brain again went “bites, rabies” then embellished it with how to protect myself “you should pick up a stick; you should call 911; you should call animal control.”  But then my observing mind (ah, the whole reason that I undertake these walks to begin with!) chirped in: “you do realize that the red fox crossed the street to give you room to walk by unimpeded?” and “you’re looking back at the fox just as he is similarly looking back at you as you both gracefully walk past each other and go on your way” and “of course there’s a fox, you’re out in nature!”  This became a moment of small awe.

I am now looking forward to the time when my meditation walk intersects again with the red fox since I have now shifted out of a place of fear to a place of awe.  I want the chance to stop in my tracks and merely watch – to see, to really see.  And, to chuckle slightly at my own humanness.

Photo – Creative commons (Brian Hoffman)

Using your personal GPS (Gut, Perceptions, Senses)

There is something special about not knowing exactly where you are – whether driving in a new area (sans car GPS) or hiking at a wilderness area for the first time (sans handheld GPS).  At the point where I give up having to know for sure, is the exact point where body and mind and spirit go into a full-on awareness where every sight and sound and movement has significance.  It is the exact point where mystery and mystique take over; where life shifts into being a puzzle that needs to be solved rather than a well-traveled road that needs to be followed.

Why do we strive so hard never to be lost?  Why is it that we think that being predictably on course is the “best” way to get somewhere?  Why do we choose to bypass our personal navigation systems – ignoring gut feelings, discounting hunches, and over-looking what we see, hear and feel?  I have found that there isn’t a situation that I can’t resolve by becoming still and watching patterns and movement in my surroundings.

Clemmons - kiosk wo directionsOn a recent hike at a new area, I had to completely trust myself to find the path – for here was the informational kiosk on the path (I interpreted it to mean “trust yourself”).


And here was the initial trail marker for the red-blazed trail (I interpreted it to mean “make it whatever color you need it to be”).  And, all was well!

Clemmons - red trail marked white