Yesterday dawned chilly, with a dense fog that laid across the land, heavier in the valleys and woodlands and clung to the hillsides until mid-morning.
Today, the temperature is climbing steadily toward the low 70’s and by tomorrow night into Sunday, we are told to expect snow.
Welcome to November in Western Pennsylvania.
I embrace these changes, the constant flux is to me, an invitation, a calling from our mother to walk out into the world and breathe.
Yesterday morning I spent about thirty minutes wandering the fringes of the woods behind the local library, watching the fog ebb and flow from the trees like waves, gentle on a grey morning shore. I snapped off a tiny sassafras branch and drank in that most magical of scents as I marveled at the colors of the leaves laying in the still green grass and it reminded me of the lyrics of an old tune called October Song, written by Robin Williamson
“The fallen leaves that jewel the ground,
They know the art of dying,
And leave with joy their glad gold hearts,
In the scarlet shadows lying.”
This afternoon, after I have finished writing this and before Erych is due home, I will go out again, I am not sure where yet, perhaps the local park, where I will walk along next to the London plane trees and see if the geese have left any spectacular feathers for me to collect, but mostly I will just walk, gathering the day into my lungs and expelling all of the processed air, along with the poisons of worry, sadness and pressure that accumulates in the system while trapped inside, locked to the computer or to a phone.
We forget, I think that the earth has the power to heal us, that there are compounds in the soil, medicines in the plants and vitamins that enter our bodies from the very light of the sun itself. And so at times I walk, mindful, slowly observing, stopping, looking, touching, pausing to allow myself time to truly see what surrounds me and that is how I spend ten minutes, thirty minutes, or an hour.
One of the things I look forward to each year is the first snowfall that actually lays on the ground. There are a list of places that I love to go when that happens, magical stretches of railroad track, or forest paths, or small bridges where it is beautiful to just stand in rapt amazement of the undisturbed snow. But any street, field or parking lot will do, any place where you can have even a few moments to appreciate the beauty before it becomes marred by footprints or tire tracks.
I had a Kung-Fu instructor once that told me that if possible he liked to be walking through nature at the hour that the seasons shifted. Yuen Sifu did not mean on the hour of the Solstice or Equinox changes, but at the hour when there was the first truly warm day in spring when you can smell the soil breathing into the air, or on the evening when the first snow comes to lay on the ground and make the world winter. I have tried to follow his example and while I have not always been able to manage it, I still strive to be mindful enough to look for those moments.
So, what does all of this mean?
I began last week to speak to you about meditation, this is your lesson for this week, walking meditation disguised as observation and enjoyment of the outdoors.
I challenge you to go out, with no other agenda other than to move, breathe, observe and simply be present in the place where you walk. Find something, someplace green and go out and walk the earth, she is waiting for you.