I’ve been feeling a little meh lately. An uninspired, unenthused feeling has settled in my body. I’m not depressed or frustrated. (OK, I am a little frustrated.) I’m just not feeling like myself.
I could blame the recent elections, the state of the world, the visceral contempt that is so prevalent on our streets, in our workplaces, and unfortunately in many of our homes right now. Or I could point out that the weather is turning colder, the trees are losing their crimson-orange-yellow-painted canvas of leaves that I so look forward to every autumn. Bare-limbed, slightly eerie-looking trees cover most of the acreage around me now. I am beginning to hear the first soft murmurs of Mother Nature’s lullaby to the Northern Hemisphere. The coming of winter sometimes feels like the cold, silent sleep of death as the nights lengthen and darkness lasts longer than the light of day.
But, honestly, I’m not sure that any of the above is the cause of my inertia. I just don’t don’t know. Thankfully, I have the solution to all (*I exaggerate. All should read most.) of my problems right at my feet. Literally.
Solvitur ambulando: Latin phrase meaning it is solved by walking. Like many others before me: Virginia Woolf, John Muir, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Macfarlane, Patrick Leigh Fermor, and William Wordsworth, I walk a lot. I don’t walk so much with the intention of solving my problems. No, it seems the other way around. When I am out walking, many of my problems seem to get solved.
I think what happens when I move my body through the woods, is that my awareness sharpens, time falls away, and I become filled with awe for the greatness of the world that I live in. I am immersed in the hoot-hoot-hoohoo of Barred Owls, the glorious sunrise and majestic sunsets, and the oak, beech, and tulip trees that tower far above me with their continuous season-changing attire. Ah, the beauty of it all! And yet, it’s not just the beautiful that awes me; the terrible also awes me. I’ve witnessed a Red-tailed Hawk tearing apart the squirming body of a gray squirrel, a Red Fox bringing home a fluffy brown rabbit for his small family of four kits, and bandit-faced raccoons and bow-legged herons feasting on frogs and fish by the water.
And just this past week, I accidentally intruded upon two deer helping to populate my neighborhood woods. I was definitely awestruck by that. I was humbled and a little intrigued. I admit, (and not a bit embarrassed) I watched. It’s not every day that I stumble upon the act of procreation during my walks.
It’s all a part of the bigger picture. All of it.
The kind and gentle work together with the perhaps, not-so-kind and perhaps not-so-gentle, to remind me that I am part of something much greater than what I believe myself to be when stuck in uninspired, unenthused, uncreative, inert periods.
I’ve learned that when I feel this “stuckness,” I have everything I need to break free from it. Like the swan in the video above, I begin to move. At first it’s not that easy, especially if I’ve allowed myself to be stuck for more than a day or two. But I keep digging myself out, pushing myself off, and eventually I free myself to break through to deeper water and easier passageways. Then I shake it off, move it on, and remember who I am and what I belong to. The big picture. All of it.
Pulitzer Prize winner and living poetry icon Mary Oliver, has filled pages of her books with what she saw, heard, tasted, touched, sensed, and felt while walking all around her former home near Provincetown, Massachusetts. One of my favorite poems of hers is “When I Am Among The Trees,” from her book, Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver. The first stanza follows:
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
For the full poem and more Mary Oliver visit onbeing.org.
Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver is available for order at quailridgebooks.com.
My photos, 2016.