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

October Endings and Beginnings

Spring is my favorite month, and many days these past few weeks have felt like March. There are new shoots of perennials poking their heads through the old growth, as I take down the garden and plant bulbs. I haven’t spent much time on the mountain, but yesterday was too beautiful a day to miss––bright, crisp, cool.

As with writing goals, sometimes the path is difficult to see.

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I didn’t go looking for them, but there was a crazy abundance of mushrooms everywhere. I used to pick and eat wild mushrooms as a kid, but none of the ones I saw resemble those. I suppose one day I should make a point of consulting an expert on whether or not any of those in Mt. Doug are edible and also why they grow where they do.

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These posts try to connect my writing life to the woods where I hike. Some observations may be products of my own imaginings, but in my wanderings and encounters with this mountain, I sometimes have insights that I can apply to my writing life.

I’ve started to shop my novel around to agents and publishers. I even received my first rejection. What next? Can I figure out where the path is leading despite the heavy leaves? Is that one lone mushroom in the woods like my own work waiting to be discovered?

Lone mushroom

 

Mt. Doug hiking and thesis writing


We are half way through the second year of this MA course and I am nowhere near where I want to be with the completion of the thesis, but two friends wanted to be introduced to Mt. Doug’s trails, and I could not refuse.
Oh look, some new boardwalk and tarmac-like material to ride over the once muddy paths. What do I think? I like some of the boardwalk, and it does the job of making the trail more accessible in winter, but the tarmac-like spongy, cementy stuff they have paved into the forest is intrusive and, honestly, quite ugly.


Can I live with it? Let me compare it to the thesis.

Two years should be enough to complete a long narrative, but I wish I had more time. The more you learn, the better, hopefully, the work gets. I could always use more time for research, refining, and a deeper exploration of the topic, but there is a deadline and I have to complete the project.

For most of us who hike Mt. Doug for the natural beauty, some of the new trail covers are less than an organic addition. It makes me wonder how much time and effort was taken to research, explore and refine the best material–and if the Friends of Mt. Doug were consulted. Perhaps there was a rush to a deadline.

Tree-hugger friends breathed in the forest air and were surprised at how deep into a forest you can go while still being 10 minutes from downtown. They joyfully took in the Douglas fir and spruce and green buds, despite the renovations, and now I am back to the solitary work of the long narrative. Trying to do the best work possible, without feeling rushed.

First Hike of 2012

A bright sunny morning and I head up the mountain for my first hike of the year. (Lucky I did so then, for now the sky has returned to its depressing gray.)

I check in on a few familiar spots and then find a path I had either forgotten about or haven’t been on.

It surprises me how quickly my body forgets how steep the climb is, and the small plateaus and trees which I, from habit, use as landmarks. The sky is clear and from the east side of little Mt. Doug, I can see the Saanich observatory and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There are a few frosty patches but the paths are fairly dry. It would be fun to play a little longer on this plateau, but I have other work to do.

I stop to film a woodpecker, take in the Gary Oaks. Mostly, I’ve longed for some Vitamin D and the forest air. There are some brilliant spots of green, from the moss to the lichen ladies.

Back at my front door, I see the green of a daffodil poking its head up out of the ground. Won’t be long now.

Bathing with mushrooms–Mt. Doug Hiking

It’s been an hour and a half bath today, in among the shrooms. Nothing like a bath to prepare you for sitting at your computer and writing for four hours.

I’m not talking about lavender water therapy; the bathing I am referring to is  shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.

I have lived in the shadow of Mt. Doug for over ten years, but did not start hiking the mountain until 2007. I was recovering from surgery and wanted to spend longer periods outdoors that involved more than holding a trowel.

As a child, I played outside all day, stopping only for a quick lunch. My adult outdoor play consisted of the odd white water rafting trip, semi-regular kayaking, occasional skiing, and gardening. Why did it take me so long to discover this wild secluded place?

I went hiking to feel stronger after my surgery. Something about being in the depths of the forest kept me going back for more. Part of it was being secluded in a natural space, part of it was discovering the plants, flowers, and birds, but as I planted myself in this landscape and the forest took me in, I began to take away something measureless– something more than an ephemeral fresh air, forest exercise high.

Thanks to last Saturday’s Globe and Mail article Healthy Forest, healthy mind, by C. James Dale, I can now qualify (and according to him quantify) the benefits of hiking the forest which is a ten minute walk from my house.

According to the article, our bodies immune systems benefit from the phytoncides or chemicals that “plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and insects.”  Dr. Miyazaki of Chiba University is Japan’s leading scholar on forest medicine and he has carried out research on forest walking which quantifies the reduction of cortisol, the lowering of blood pressure, and the increase of anti-tumour proteins.

The beautiful Japanese term shinrin-yoku, translated as forest bathing from the definition “taking in the forest atmosphere”, was new to me, and probably will be to many of you. What is not new is the benefit of a forest walk, wherever you are in the world.

Maybe that is why I often see a woman who looks like she is in her 80’s still taking the steep Norm trail. She bathes every day.