The day proved long, as Monday’s can often feel. A late afternoon rain had cooled everything down and I left to walk the marsh and smell the clean air. I traveled sans electronics choosing to hear cicadas, starlings, and gossipy red-wings rather than risk a phone call or hear a song I’d heard many times before on the iPod. It’s curious how silence has slipped into me. Over the last year a hunger for quiet has grown up in me more fertile and prosperous than dandelions. I love music and dance often in my home, but the days of ear buds and sounds other than nature along my trails seem more past than present these days.
Movement atop the tall stand of trees to the west caught my eye and reminds me why I came out this evening. I won’t say I regretted my lack of camera as he began his circling decent onto the pond, but my hand reflexively traveled to my pocket looking for something to capture his flight. Without any gear to speak of I was left with nothing but my awareness to capture the moment and that, in the end, was my good fortune. He circled twice before landing on the far side, adjusting his wings briefly before slowly strolling through the reeds to the water’s edge. They are, in every sense, magnificent birds. Large with bold markings and yet they move as Buddhist monks on a walking meditation – slow, deliberate, thoughtful. I slow to share in his mindfulness while watching his head turn slightly to catch the sight of fish below the surface. He sees far more in that water than I and so I bow as I pass, one sort of master to another.
The day’s chaos has already floated off and I am struck by what an extraordinary life I lead. I walk in beauty with funds to meet my needs, food in my belly, good use for my hands and time to ponder what has been given me. As often happens when I give my strain to the twilight air, I have been set right by a heron with the grace of flight and sunset water.
Free Bing Photos
We think splitting an atom is the most powerful thing we humans can figure out or do. I’d argue breaking a habit is. Without focus and discipline changing habitual patterns isn’t just difficult it’s nearly impossible, because the very nature of a habit is you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. This is great for driving to work in the morning, but if you have a habit of eating too much or never giving yourself nice things, it’s a problem not a help. Of interest, however, is inside our well-worn habits is the power of celestial black holes. When we break out of them it’s a bit like releasing the energy of a quasar. This, of late, has become my focus. I’ve challenged myself to break a few of my own.
Tonight I went for winter’s walk. I often step out onto the deck and think I should walk the neighborhood before bed. The air is crisp and clean and it always feels like there’s magic in all that darkness. Invariably though, I talk myself out of it with such pressing matters as there’s lunch to pack for the next day. I’m in cozy socks. It’s late and I have to be up early. I decided tonight I would make a different choice. On death beds all over the world are millions of people lamenting the night walks they never took and the sunsets they forgot to appreciate. That shall not be me, I decided. I left on my cozy socks and slipped on my sneakers.
The air was, as I expected, crisp and almost electric. Christmas lights dot almost every house and as I walked along the lake the colored lights lit the water. I heard the geese commenting on my passing, more than I could actually see them. At this hour, there is so much quiet that the subtlest rustle of leaves could be heard. I held my keys, as even their jingle in my pocket seemed a marching band. What I think may have been an owl flew over my head as I stood on the bridge that crossed the creek. The coyotes in the field beyond the houses announced the start of their night hunt and I listened to them yelp for several minutes before moving down the path into the wood.
To experience the night, it’s movement and its odd manner of light; stars, a crescent moon, street light reflections, is to awaken something truly mystical in your soul. I am certain it was this mystery that so often whispered to me as I stood on the deck. A mystery in me I can only feel when I walk in darkness and allow the sounds of the night to move around me. There’s power in allowing yourself to be partially blind. To accept the way isn’t all that clear past the next few steps. That you can be happy in all the black uncertainty. It’s curious that when we meditate it can feel hard to silence oneself, yet take a walk along a deserted lane at night and it is as if your skull has become the most beautiful chapel, your thoughts saffron wrapped monks bowing to the moon.
Coming of night over Johnston Lake: Photo by Noelle
In the coming of night I feel the day slip away. In the last rays that crest the hill, I forget what disturbed my midday and nagged my afternoon. No monk am I, but there is a vesper in my heart at this hour. As if the monastery bell had rung and in the reeds of the lake I knelt. Swallows catch the last flies, before the chill descends with the night. I ache to follow the rays across the horizon, yet, there is peace in this twilight I fear to miss. The passing of my day, its light and its dark, not to be walked again.