Friday, December 31, 2010
The world will freely offer itself to you
to be unmasked,
it has no choice,
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
On January 1st, 2010, Michael and I took a walk at Jacks Peak. I’d been off my bicycle for too long due to problems my back. The gym wasn’t doing it for me. Everything in me needed OUTDOORS. The very first time I came to Jacks Peak was by bicycle. It’s a steep climb and, after circling the parking lot, I came to the wrong conclusion—that it was just a picnic area. It took several more visits to learn that this was no mere slip of a place but that a whole world lay at my feet.
I decided to spend a year walking, wanted to walk every trail, to know the lay of the land, to get a good feel of the place. I asked this question: What does it mean to befriend a place?
A year later, I still like that question, but am not certain I have an answer. I know that if, when I die, I’ve got any money, I want it donated toward protecting this park and increasing its acreage. And I’d like my ashes sprinkled in these woods. I gush about the place, wanting those I love to love Jacks Peak. Making art pieces from this nature and then showing them to people, is another kind of celebration, an extension of my love, another way of saying, “You come too.”
Most of all I’ll walk away, on this last day of the year, with two things in the deepest of my pockets: greater joy and far less fear in walking alone and a feeling of boundless curiosity sated and, simultaneously, unsated.
Also these tidbits of knowledge: owls do, occasionally, hoot at midday; if you want to hear the smaller birds converse, keep walking, don’t stand still, because, if you do, they’ll stop singing; but if you want to see the deer who come close, stand very still and barely breathe, and, if you’re lucky, they won’t run away immediately; mountain lions aren’t going to eat me; most creeps don’t come here; fear runs its course, and when it realizes you’re not going to play along, it gives up its death grip; the woods will never shut its gates on me or you.
I love walking with others but walking alone I love most of all. That wasn’t true for the first several months when fear was an all too frequent companion. Out in the woods, alone, something happens to me, I get a feeling that’s a mix between rapture and inspiration, an elation my body feels too small to contain.
Nature is never the same. If you’re attentive it will give you this and more: the look of the tip of one fern leaf touching another, bits of ceanothus blossom carpeting the ground like blue snow, the year’s first dandelions, the sound of two tiny birds chatting up in a tree, the feeling of wind traveling right up to me, the look of darkness just past where the trail bends, sunlight hot on my back, my breath, my lungs, my strong heart while climbing up hill, walking for two hours and not seeing another person, raindrops on my face, banana slugs eating mushrooms, the look in the dying woodrat’s eye.
Though I’ve walked almost every trail, I know, for certain, there are two I’ve not set foot on, probably more. The desire to walk every path lost its hold on me after I’d walked enough of the park to have a sense of the place, to carry a map in my mind.
The other day, I wrote that seeing begets seeing; the same is true for walking in the woods and learning about the place. My desire to walk is unabated, my hunger for knowledge about the nuances and intricacies of the natural world blossoms yet. On the morning of January 1st, 2011, you know where I’ll be.
Thank you for reading these notes, for being my companions. With the hope that someone would be reading, I’ve written to you. Today’s the final entry. Tomorrow, though, there’ll be a little something here, an offering to the new year. I'll begin writing the first half of the year and moving toward a book about this past year of walking, of befriending Jacks Peak.
Though I won’t write this blog into the future, it will stay online for anyone who might care to read it. My plan is to soon begin another, very different blog. Stay tuned.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 7:20 AM