[originally written 9/4/08
Oh my gosh, how do people find time to write blogs? Between sitting out on my porch and watching the swallows in the dusk, and then bats come flitting out from the forest across the street from me… to picking the yellow teardrop shaped tomatoes that are falling off the vine out back… to plucking harlequin bugs that are having way too much fun clowning around (read: MUNCHING!) on my cleomes… How does a person find time to just sit and write?
I’m really not sure. All I know is that I need to write because the thoughts and insights are flying at me and through me faster than I can truly record them. For instance, I went kayaking this past weekend on a little known Eastern Shore river in MD called the Sassafras. It’s south of Elkton, and south of the Bohemian River (sp?) on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, the more rural, flat side. (I told my friend, Megan, that we’ve finally found our place, over on the Eastern Shore: the Bohemian River. She told me that she preferred a concrete option of Bohemia, Fells Point [Baltimore] being her mecca. ;~).
Anyhow I was kayaking with some new friends and decided to opt out of going with them to the busier part of the river with the jetskies, powerboats etc zipping around. We first paddled up to the headwaters where the waters were calmer and no motorized boat traffic. It was really beautiful with kingfishers lilting along the water edge, white (snowy?) egrets and great blue herons coursing in long, slow wing beats, an osprey that dropped like a bullet with a mission (of dinner) and caught a fish just in front of us, and –we think- a bald eagle too. It was quiet and contemplative and just my speed.
But when our group headed back to explore the more populated river parts downstream, I chose instead to pull my kayak in, get out of the sun, and just sit on the beach at the put-in and watch. I was really tired anyway and relished the stillness, as I do so much. What I found myself observing, other than the bucolic rural river scene with turkey vultures and horses in the field across the river, was how rare it was to see someone on the water in a boat who truly looked like they were connecting with all the natural life around them. The jet-skiers were in their loud, fossil fuel propelled machines that skimmed at a quick pace over the water, throwing up an arcing spray that was fun to watch. The motor boats roared faster and louder buffering their passengers from the water surface in thick plastic shells that. Then there was the rubber raft with a 10 horsepower outboard motor carrying a couple in their 50’s or early 60’s, putzing across the water. Though they were taking in the sights, it seemed, much more than the boats with bigger, more powerful engines. Even the canoeists with their binoculars seem preoccupied with arranging their seats and chatting with each other glancing for a bird intermittently.
I mused on how disconnected from nature we truly are, as a society. Most of us. And while all of those people I saw probably went to work on Tues (it was just before Labor Day when we were kayaking) stating they had “spent the weekend outside”, they weren’t really experiencing the “outside”. They brought their busy machines and busy minds along with them. It’s as if they still carried the cultural bubble around them in the canoe or jetski insulating them from the “outside”. The interesting thing is that the word “outside” even conveys a sense of separate and different, and even somewhat scary for some. Because we live “inside” where it’s warm (or cooled), and safe. And only a short walk to the kitchen. (This I can attest to, all too well.) Reminds me of that profound book: Wilderness and the American Mind.
I’m not much different than the guy or gal on the jetski. With my gardening business, I spend hours outside alone in beautiful spots and still spend most of that time entrapped in thoughts that have nothing to do with that weed or flower in front of me. Only very recently have I found myself tuning in more to the subtle shifts in the breeze or a bluebird alighting on a nearby fence. It’s really hard to still that ‘Monkey Mind’ as the Buddhists call it, with the frenetic pace of our lifestyle and constant distractions. And don’t even get me started on the cellphones and texting distractions of most people. It all seems like sheer nervous energy spinning out of control.
But I’d like to know what it would take for most of us to start to make that “outside” not so “outside” our consciousness. What would it take for some and then more folks to start to shift to merging into that “outside” to understand that it’s inherently part of us and our being-ness on the planet. It’s not separate. We’re not separate. We’re deeply embedded it and it is our life, food, air etc.
Maybe if I shut down all the stores that sell car, boat batteries and cellphones, that would be a start. Just vaporized them. Yeah.. it would be an adjustment. Okay, well, a big adjustment. But think of the silence! And people who would be focused on the road (let’s hope). Whoo-eee! I’d celebrate. Then I’d be tarred and feathered.
But still… how do we do this? I mean, how do we get folks to slow down. Enjoy the stillness. Slip into the natural world and know we’re one with all the other species?