Last weekend I finally made it out to my favorite local park, Diablo Foothills Regional Park. I had not been on a hike since the surgery, and the last time I'd visited this park I was in so much pain I could only make it half the distance I normally walked. I looked forward to being able to hike my usual distance and to visit the landscapes I hold dearly in my heart.
I brought my camera and I walked slowly, taking it all in. The late-afternoon sunlight highlighted the grass, creating fields of golden wands waving in the wind. Breezes tickled the trees, making the leaves dance. I heard woodpeckers and hummingbirds chattering and the laughter of children. I could not have dreamed of a better day to re-enter the woods.
When I bring my camera into nature, I enter what some call "the zone." I effectively enter a trance, an altered state, and my eyes shift into creative mode: the tiniest change in light attracts me to a particular branch, the way a shadow falls on a rock makes my heart skip a beat. I feel like I cannot move fast enough to record all the beauty before me. But this excites me and I no longer sense time. When I left the park I was astonished that two hours had passed. It felt so much shorter to me.
After climbing the hill to visit my favorite trees, I turned around and started back. After a few moments of walking down the trail, an amazing sensation overcame me. I could no longer feel the difference between my skin and the air. My body felt like it had expanded to become the entire forest. I stopped, relishing the feeling. I breathed and the forest breathed and we were one. I had no boundaries. I was the forest and the forest was me. This experience of oneness lasted for the briefest moment, but it was one of the most profound moments of my life. I believe all is one, but this was a firsthand, visceral experience of that. It showed me the truth behind this universal concept, and reminded me that one cannot truly grasp an idea until one has experienced it in the body.
When the moment passed, a huge grin spread on my face. I took a deep breath, grateful for my health, my body, my life. I skipped down the trail with a little more bounce in my step. And I felt my connection to that land grow deeper and stronger. I hope never to forget how I felt in that moment.