Spring on Mt. Doug

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Like the flowers, I am finding my way back to the mountain. This Easter hike led me to the blooming skunk cabbage, a path and view I had forgotten about, and to a place where rocks define a space. Curious about the rocks in this setting; I’ll try and find out more.

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Similarly, in searching for a publisher for the long work (to my mind it will only be a novel when it is published and in book stores) there have been a few discoveries––a few inconsistent rejections, kind personal publisher emails, ‘we like it, but aren’t sure it fits with our list.’ Like the mountain hiking, this pursuit is leading me along some interesting paths. Rejection is hard, but keep believing in the work. Keep the long view in mind.

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

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No Regrets on Mt. Doug

The past few months I’ve been neglecting facets of my life while I focus on people and situations that require my full care and attention. In other words, consciously and unconsciously, I have set priorities, because my human body and mind has only so much life energy to expend.

I’ve neglected my writing and my walks in these woods. Luckily, I can see this mountain from my window, and even when I can’t be in it, I can look toward its green and rocky back and, however brief, the sight of it in the sun or through the fog puts me at peace.

But yesterday the sunshine called and just like that, I slipped on my hiking boots and took to the deep forest.

Spring is awakening here.

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I ran into one of the Friends of Mt. Doug and he gave me a brief update. Perhaps because of that, reminders of the important work being carried out by so many people caught my attention and mingled with drifting thoughts.

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Due to the flooding of an area east of Shelbourne and the harm to trees, a tributary to drain off the water has been dug. Here you can also see a replanting of native species and a notice that when you are here to mind where you set your foot.

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Someone I was once very close to suddenly passed away in January and I did not find out until this past week. This kind and talented man, whom I had not seen in decades, found me through these words. He told me how proud he was of me and several emails passed between us in 2012.

I was busy with editing and sending out my manuscript and my correspondence with him dwindled and then stopped. These past few days, I’ve been thinking about neglect, wondering if my connection with another human being came up short.

We carry on with our busy lives and sometimes we just aren’t able to give 100% to our families, every friend, our health, our communities, our work. When our attention needs to focus on the immediate, we can miss other things going on around us and afterwards, in hindsight, foolishly pass judgment. I thought about that this week as I mourned.

The woods are a good place to take grief. Happy memories, the past cloaked in music, words, and unique shared moments arrived amongst the new blossoms.

Regret does not heal or feed the soul, and as I walked this morning, the forest seemed to take away what I do not need. This is not a solipsistic conjuring of mine own, analyzing away regret or renegotiating time and neglect. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, nature is medicinal. The trees sway above, a woodpecker picks over yonder, the mud squishes underfoot, the sunshine accentuates the green moss, I breathe in mushrooms, and I come away renewed.

The least amount of work in this place will help protect and sustain it.

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And however brief our genuine care and attention to one another may be, it can be powerful and long lasting.

Thank you mb and Rest in Peace.

 

 

Reading Nature

When I can’t drag myself up the mountain–my theory is that it has something to do with the change of seasons, or perhaps it is the consuming MA work–I turn to literature and what it says about our experience of nature and being outdoors.

Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, the 1998 Booker Prize winner, tells of a “reluctance to be overcome,” because of a “a sense of scale habituated to [by] the daily perspective of rooms and streets,”  and which requires an “act of will… to keep walking away from the nearest people, from shelter, warmth and help.” Does my sitting at a computer for hours on end reduce me to a “cringing state” as his character Clive describes?

Do I feel threatened by the dangers of the mountain, when there is only “elemental indifference”? I know, just as Clive knows, that my hikes on Mt. Doug remind me, as they reminded Clive in the Lake District, that I am “part of this order and insignificant within it,” and that once I am deep in the forest, I too will be “set free.”

But today with my daffodils in full bloom–amazing how planting 150 in the fall, don’t look like that many more in the garden–I recited Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and from the comfort of my living room sofa, “wandered lonely as a cloud,” and “my heart with pleasure [filled] and [danced] with the daffodils.”

I think of Sharon Butala‘s The Perfection of the Morning, and how for me, as well, there is no “separating my spiritual journey, my life, from the reasons for and the effects of my daily contact with Nature.” Even this, though, does not urge me to lace shoes and head out.

When the sky turns gray, I turn to Wendell Berry‘s Fidelity, and I reread how Danny takes the dieing Uncle Burley Coulter from his hospital bed and returns him to the “woods and darkness” where he belongs. But it is Spring, let me return to rebirth.

In The Nature Notes of An Edwardian Lady, I look at Edith Holden’s beautifully drawn daffodils and Hedge Sparrow and think about the birds of my forest that are about the business of gathering leaves and twigs for their nests. This simple lovingly written journal is never far from me.

The mountain is green from my window and my lawn needs mowing.

I need to be outside and up the mountain.

Soon, soon.