One member is sitting with an inviting strip of forest just outside Minneapolis. Another will commune with a lake in Maine. Still another will walk a path in Oakland, tending to the land by picking up the trash that daily accumulates there. We've talked about the Milky Way (something I've never seen) and people have guided me to local spots where I might catch a glimpse. We've shared how even our front porches, backyards, and decks provide us a link to the natural world. From cicadas to hummingbirds to deer, we're visited by our animal brothers and sisters and we revel in it.
Here are a few snippets from my journal entries:
August 4: "I immediately tried to find the redwood tree I'd had in my mind as 'the spot.' I couldn't find it. It's like it wasn't there, this amazing tree I'd created in my mind. I knew I'd visited a beautiful redwood there before, but 'the tree' hid from me this time. So instead I walked the concrete path, grumpy about how many people were there and angry I only had a little time to spend.
I ended up at a large pine tree with smooth bark that caught my attention. Lance pointed out that six crows sat in the tree. I looked up and had trouble seeing them at first, but they slowly appeared. Crows. I wasn't sure what to think about that. Lance sat down in the grass and I joined him, promptly putting my hand in bird shit. I felt defeated. A very emaciated woman walked by, telling her husband she was glad she'd be able to go to the doctor tomorrow. Seeing her felt right: I, too, was emaciated, but in an emotional sense. This divorce and the other circumstances surrounding it have left me exhausted, drained.
The next morning I returned, determined to have a better experience. A cold wind blew that made the park uninviting. I wandered to a stand of redwoods next to the outdoor pool. I saw several mushrooms blooming and felt uplifted: a sign of life. Then I noticed several Corona bottle caps as well. Light. Light in the darkness. I took a breath. I walked around a while longer and then left."
August 9: "It was much quieter at the park than during the day...there was no pool noise and fewer people overall so I thought I'd be more relaxed and happy. Soon, however, the highway noise overtook it all. After a while it was almost all I could hear, drowning out the sound of the wind and birds. I tried to allow it to be there but I found myself becoming more and more annoyed. I tried to focus on the beauty around me: the tree silhouettes darkening against a lavender sky, the feel of the redwood trunk behind me, the soft dirt under my hands. I breathed in the cool breeze. And still the cars and trucks haunted me.
I realized I must make room for the highway noise. The more we resist things, the more they push back. Somehow, I want to find a way to hold the reality of the highway and still enjoy the nature that surrounds me at the park. Somehow, I have to find a way to hold cities and nature. And here I am, setting up a duality. There must be a way to better integrate cities and nature so the flow is there, so it's not a this vs. that situation."
It's a learning process. I relish the idea of seeing where this practice takes all of us as we visit our places between now and December.