First tracks in a snowstorm!
I have often entered the woods carrying my burdens like a heavy backpack. The first part of my hike is spent thinking, pondering, stressing. Replaying problems or anticipating future roadblocks. Sometimes my thoughts are in a tangle, others they are firmly focused on the issue I am dealing with.
Yet, as I step along, Anna trotting ahead of me, my worries begin to dissipate. Sometimes I have arrived at the solution, but many times my concerns are tread into the path, taken in by the trees. Like they turn carbon into oxygen, the leaves filter my thoughts until I am left with peace.
I have brought some pretty serious problems with me into the forest, but I can’t remember one time that I left without feeling some relief, some belief that I will figure it out and things will be OK. At times, I am even given an epiphany.
The woods come with many gifts, but their ability to soothe, to take me in and change me, is one that I reverence always. I often say my thanks out loud to the trees: the best I can do to repay them for this free service.
If you like my writing, you should check out my book: Tao of Thoreau
Two of my favorites: ruins and waterfalls. I’ve always loved ruins, whether they are colonial like this or ancient and magnificent like in Italy. There is an echo of the past, evidence of labor and construction, and the ghostlike essence of those who once lived and worked in a place that is now abandoned.
When it comes to waterfalls I am not picky. I’ve seen some gigantic ones, and they are awesome, but I’ll take any size any time.
There is a magic to them, and I enjoy water rushing, falling, noisy flowing.
I entered Tao of Thoreau into a contest for self-published non-fiction. Although it didn’t win, I did receive a review from one of the judges.
Of course, I was apprehensive, seeing as my book didn’t make the cut. However, the review was very positive, and was yet another boost along this journey.
Here is a sample:
Topic Appeal: The author has found a quite unique topic in seeing Thoreau firstly for what he was, a Transcendentalist—therefore, in actuality a Taoist. The BBC says Taoism is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview, whereas Google tells us Transcendentalism comes out of America’s early New England region. The author here shows us that these two philosophies, in reality, share similar views, a useful point of view.
First, I love that the reviewer is clearly British. This probably means this person has little knowledge of Thoreau, which I actually like because the book has to stand on its own merits and not rely on the reviewer’s knowledge.
My favorite piece of this section is the final five words “a useful point of view.” Though this isn’t exactly high praise, I find it valuable. It is some confirmation that the idea I had to compare these two philosophies is a good one. I mean, I certainly believed it, but it is good to have outside confirmation.
This picture is emblematic of how Nature teaches lessons. This tree appears dead at first glance, but there is that one living branch, somehow surviving out of a bole that is in the process of decay.
The more I’m in the woods, the more I see how closely intertwined death and decay are with growth and abundance. It’s relatively obvious that decay feeds life; moldering earth gives birth to abundant plants.
But this picture offers something deeper: the stubbornness of growth, the overpowering will of life and creation even amidst its likely end.
It is an appropriate lesson for a new year. Turned into a metaphor, perhaps that tree is a cherished dream long held that is beginning to slip away. But there is that one branch that still lives, if you focus your energy and passion on it.
May you find your dreams and focus your will on what you want and need in 2023.