Walk With Me?

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We wake at dawn with the rising sun coming up and the bluish hue of light cresting the peaks around us. The gentle whispering of a nearby stream silently brush the senses awake, and I unzip the tent flap, shaking off droplets of dew onto the ground that spread in the sand as if tears of joy fell from my eyes. That first cold breath plumes into the chilled sky, and we walk through the mist with light steps that still loudly crunch the gravel underfoot. After the heavy and familiar weight of a bag settles onto our shoulders, our footsteps began to recede from the sleeping ears of the inhabitants still at camp. The sounds of our own traveling is announced by inanimate rocks.

Slowly the trees and the plants grow thicker and creep along the wet, fertile path that smells equal parts of the air after a rain shower and of the sweet musk of a rose. It is the golden early morning light that filters through the trees in beams and illuminated pockets of the forest around us like glittering jewels among the dense green.

As the birds shiver off their sleep, gentle chirping alights upon our ears and suddenly many dozens of them are rustling in the branches overhead and the woods are now alive with the sound of many species. They crackle and chirp and whistle and sing. The sounds melding together into a symphony. It’s almost unbelievable the abundance of life that thrives here. You’ll almost never see the same thing anywhere else even nearby this patch of land because each section of land is different with its own character and personality.

The air itself grows a tad humid as the air warms and the forests bottom dwellers come to life as well, chirping and trilling in the lush, green grass.

When you walk in a fertile forest, your feet sink softly in not mud but broken down leaves and tree bark and dead grass that decompose into life giving soil alive with many trillions of little organisms and bacteria that are the backbone of the land.

The air is sweet. It feels healthy and soul-fulfilling just to breathe. Just to take in a lungful and look around at the oxygen producing wonders around us is powerful. The air is heavy with the breath of life.

Once and awhile, through the trees we see a hint of blue or perhaps the rushing sound of a river nearby but just as quickly as it came it disappears. The forest here is truly thick and instead of feeling claustrophobic, you realize that there are no walls around us but an infinite amount of paths to traverse each one leading to another world, another experience. Perhaps one experience could be a river or a lake or a patch of crystals sitting on this small square of earth. Where your feet land is new and untouched and untrodden because the life will regrow after being pressed or tamped down.

Though at first we may have been anxious or worried, the clean air and thrum of the land gives rise to serene peace. For once we feel truy in the moment and in the present is where our mind stays. It lingers on the gentle sway of a flower and the hint of honeyed, minty tree sap coming from a cut in one, large pine tree. It lingers on the way the moss covers the rock in a multi colored embrace and the way each leg pumps and morphs with the lay of the land underfoot and not the flat gray of an asphalt trail.

Without all the distractions of daily life the world seems to open and accept us into its arms. We are one with that power or being or flowing essence which we perceive exists in the world. It’s a measure of spirituality and freedom to take a walk in free woods and partake in a pristine world devoid of the things that make us lose confidence or lose pride.  The trees do not judge. Therefore we stand tall among them.

I know of no greater therapy than a walk in the wild forests of our world.

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The Wise Owl and Memories

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I have had a small reverence for owls for a large part of my life. I remember during summer months on walks that extended into dusk, my parents would bid me listen to the rolling hoot of an unseen owl and we’d wait, eyes glittering, for the far-off reply.

From these experiences, I grew to relish the sound of owls and held encounters with them in the highest regard. As I write, I have in my mind one specific event that occurred with my old camera and my brother while out on an evening adventure.

My brother and I would empty our school bags and set off for the patch of woods sitting alongside a dry ditch bed.  We’d wander along the bottom with its mysterious racoon tracks and ferret away crinkly snake skins entwined with bits of grass. The yellow orange glow of sunset would fall gently on our smiles and as the coal blue of dusk crept through the evening we would begin to tread softly.

In our young minds we heeded well the warning that nature’s more sinister creatures came out in the night. Thus, in this state of wonderful, perpetual fear we explored. Our eyes saw dancing shadows and each rustled blade of grass as a horrid monster ready to eat our bite sized existence.

Fearful though we were, we wandered on and farther exploring the boundaries of our backyard worlds. The night got progressively darker and we hushed. Awaiting the sound of our quarry.

The past had at once presented us with racoons and frogs and skittering mice but until this day we had yet to truly see an owl. As the light continued to fade into the horizon, we received our first sign of life.

Hoo Hoo-oo-ooo Hoo

The haunting sound of it sent my hairs on end and yet I longed for the glowing eyes to swivel upon me.

We had heard the hoot and knew now the owl was close at hand but we had yet to see it. I whispered to my companion, he whispered back, and our necks craned up and swiveled in search of the sound’s origin.

Then, we saw it in flight.

The bird had flown from a rooftop near our location and floated up to the very point of the tallest tree in the grove. We stared in awe at the perfectly silhouetted shape of a Great Horned Owl and the reverent nature of the moment bid me to take pause.

I unleashed my camera a moment after and moved slowly and deliberately to crouch down and take a photo of the owl’s shape.

Not long ago I stumbled across this photo and immediately remembered the night it was captured and the feelings it inspired.

It’s interesting for me to think that 7 years ago, I still went on adventures with camera in hand and only today do I sit to recollect the fairytale magic of that night. I guess it goes to show that my love and life have remained consistent through the wear of growing-up.

We all have beginnings. One of my starts began with the wise old owl.

A Question: Slow Living or Fast Dying

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Today, I got out with a group of friends to start a fire.

The plan originally was for me to chase some morning light and watch the sunrise for photography but ended up a group hang out by my new favorite spot on the river. It’s slightly secluded, with a nearby white water area that offers superb background noise while chatting about any and all things.

One idea brought up was living, as it inevitably comes along in our conversations. The idea was not the meaning of life or life’s purpose but how we should live.

The questions asked were things like big home or apartment? Farm or city? Material wealth or emotional? In essence, the conversation prompted the question of how best to live in the place and manner one has the opportunity to live in?

As young adults, we have our entire future ahead of us and are free to choose for ourselves where that future leads. I have only the vaguest idea of mine.

If we are speaking only on a dream life, I would live in the mountains near a little mountain town with my quaint simple cabin and small plot of farm land. The nearby barn would house an assortment of animals that would provide for me the purest and most directly farmed produce that I could get. Hopefully I am a writer. And make decent money writing and ruminating on my experiences. While at the same time my living expenses are minimal enough that the little I make covers my lifestyle.

That dream of mine is simply alluring. With everything that goes on in this world at the same times, sometimes it seems as if slowing down and slow living is the answer to the chaotic world of money and politics. I can feel the threat of debt and labor slowly creeping into my life as I get ever closer to attending college and assuming an occupation that will become my cultural identity for years into the future.

A janitor does not have the same public response as a doctor, and in that sense, choosing an occupation is also choosing an image to live by.

So today, sitting fireside by the river in the sun, I can’t help but notice how life grows longer as it’s spent doing slower things. These simple moments with friends are not experiences reserved for the young but only less common experiences performed by the adults.

Why is that? Why, when we grow up must we be sucked into the rat race of existence and not have the time of day to wake up early and relax? Why is it that we must force ourselves into discontent and unfulfillment in order to live? Because from where I stand, that is not living. To grow is to live. To stagnate is to die.

My view of the dream life is not fancy cars and steak dinners and mansions. It’s almost against the American dream. My dream future is one of fulfillment and simplicity. Where I can live in peace and harmony with my soul and come to find that when I die, I lived not for tomorrow, but for today.

Today, I started a fire, riverside; and talked on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, I lived the OutLife.

Bumblebees and Rhinos and Kids

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Without a doubt, my greatest fear about losing the resources we have in the environment is that there may come a point where my kids no longer have the opportunity to relish the diversity that is out there. Instead, they may grow in a worrisome and tenuous world.

If you keep up closely with environmental news, 2050 is the heavily reported tipping point where if nothing is done, the environment will undergo serious decline.

Now, if the average age of adults who have a child in the U.S is 25 years old and I am 18, that would mean that I have my first child in 2024. Now, my earliest memory I have is from around 5 years old so let’s assume that my child reaches the age of five before enjoying and remembering their experiences in the outdoors. Now the year is 2029 and that gives just 21 years for the world to get our act together before the environment reaches a point of no return. Meanwhile, my child is continuously reaching the age where the world is their problem and no longer mine.

When I look at it from that perspective, I wonder at the world I leave for my child to clean up. I don’t have children at all and it will be many years before I do but I think about my own position and grow frustrated at the generations before me that knew we had to do something and just sat on their hands. How is it that we as Americans always think the problem will be solved by someone else? It is up to us to set an example and I am sick and tired of all the finger pointing happening in the world. Yes, China contributes just as much greenhouse gas emissions as the U.S.  but, wake-up, they have THREE TIMES the population count that we do. How can any parent in their right mind say that they want their children to have the best life possible and yet turn a blind eye to the perils of the environment?

Because what awaits them in their prosperous future where no action is taken will be global sea level rise, droughts, extreme weather in all forms, and a plethora of health maladies that will only continue to worsen long after we are gone.

The world we leave behind for the generation of my future children is bleak. And it is not in my power to control. One person living as green as possible will not make a dent on the environmental health of the world. Only if collective action is taken by the people that can make sweeping changes can there be a future for my children to enjoy.

Today, I saw that the African Black Rhino has been declared officially extinct. This comes not long after a Bumblebee species was placed on the endangered species list.

If these things are not enough of an indication that this world is so bent on making the most money possible, then I fear there may come a day where I have to apologize to my children for the actions of humanity.

Is that a talk you would look forward to? That appears to be the direction I am headed in.

Our current president is the physical manifestation of the worst aspect of climate denial; that it is money driven. The fact of the matter is that since the environment is not good for business, it’s not good for America.

And that is a shallow, selfish, insular view of the natural world.

The word environmentalist is not a word for hippies and tree-huggers any longer. It is a word for people who own a good conscience.

Without it we, collectively, condemn later generations to climate chaos.

Who in their right mind approves of that in exchange for money?

I don’t.

That is why I’m here. That is why this 18-year-old high school kid is compelled to write.

He must clean up the mess. And he has to do it fast.

Will you join me?

Dreaming of Greens, Blues, and Between

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I woke at dawn with the rising sun coming up and the bluish hue of light cresting the peaks around me. The gentle whispering of a nearby stream silently brushed my senses awake and I unzipped the tent flap, shaking off droplets of dew onto the ground that spread as if tears of joy had fallen from my eyes. That first cold breath plumed into the chilled sky and I walked through the mist with light steps that still loudly crunched the gravel underfoot. After the heavy and familiar weight of a fishing bag settled onto my shoulders, footsteps began to recede from the sleeping ears of the inhabitants still at camp. The sounds of my own traveling announced by the loose rocks.

Once lake side, I watched as an older man who woke up much earlier than I had casted a long way into the lake. The line was a shimmering, silken thread unspooling in the golden hue of the world. My eyes trailed the path like my future depended on it and watched the silver sheen of the lure waggle its way through the water beneath the slowly spreading circles of life.

What a small beauty in this wide world.

The glare from the lake as the sun rose higher and higher into the sky blinded me viciously and suddenly I woke up from my deep slumber in a bed at home. My ply wood and insulation home.

I had been dreaming of my blissful venture into open air, and while I rested, my mind sought after the solace of the mountains.

It is comforting to know that whether awake or asleep, nature will always be available to grace my eyes and heal my mind. Nature will always be an option to me.

It’s forever a part of me.

And because of this wonderful and soulful connection I find it altogether saddening and disheartening to know that there are many people that have never experienced the outdoors. Some people take too close to their phone and huddle inside their air-conditioned campers to never once truly enjoy nature.

I yearn to show people that the birds call and the frogs croak is inspiring.

I desire the opportunity to skip rocks with those who never have and show them the ever-widening circles flowing out on top of a sea of glass.

I want, more than anything, to show that I’m not crazy. That the environment matters and I’m not another pot smoking hippy. That the government and society have their heads shoved so far into a pile of money they can no longer see the effect they have on us all. On the world.

I want to inspire environmentalists and outdoorsmen and nature lovers of all kinds to take part in a slowly dying natural world in the hopes that we can protect it for my future kids to fully enjoy.

How, is my question. How can I make people care and want to care? How do I inspire them.

I guess, for now, all I can do is share my hopes, reach toward dreams, and hope my voice reaches the right people.

Live your OutLife.