I’ve long known intuitively that walking in nature heals me.
I woke late after a morning nap today (on occasion, my body demands further rest after rising, and I’ve learned to listen). I decided to go into the back yard to clean up after our beagles. This is not a particularly fun job, but I’ve discovered that due to my reduced sense of smell – part of my experience of Sjogren’s syndrome – it’s not too awful either.
Recently, I’ve had to start cleaning up the front yard as well. A neighbouring dog has decided he liked our “bit o’ earth” and has recently made it his as well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover there were no new messes to clean up since last week. So I then headed to the back yard, after stopping for a sweatshirt to fight off the January chill.
As I walked, I became aware of everything around me, and my part in it. My kidney, still cold and aching, and my abdomen still hurting as it did last night. After a dream of being captain of a huge ocean liner, and walking the decks, and fighting off attackers with delicate swords that seemed too easily bent (like foil, rather than the tempered metal of yesterday), it didn’t seem fair that I seemed to have come out the worse. The place on my right side, just under my ribs, tender from the emotional pains I’d experienced starting in 2010, was stabbing as well. I observed the pain, and looked further around.
The early January sky was a translucent blue. The sun reminded me of a cold star, rather than the orb of heat that blasts my sensitive immune system in the summer. I imagined, as I often do in dreams, that I am walking in a very special place, under some foreign sky – perhaps that on another world. The starlings make their darling chirps and chatter, that I find so earthy and musical. I know that some people don’t like their song – indeed, don’t consider it a song – but I do. They are flying between the thin dark branches spidering into the blue, touched by thin, almost tangible rays of my distant star.
I follow a path, pausing now and then in my walking meditation. My breath slows and deepens like last night. I feel the experience of pain receding. In my mind, I am walking the labyrinth I have always longed to walk, but haven’t, since Clare – who introduced me to a love of the labyrinth – left us on a January day so many years ago. It seems fitting then, on this crisp day, that I think of her, and see the lines of the labyrinth unfolding beneath me. It takes a long time, only because I have left the concept of time and am enjoying my stroll. It is only as I begin to clean up, amidst the chatter of starlings, that I return to the normal flow of time.
My task takes me back to the front yard, to put the garbage bin out for tomorrow. Then, on the way back, I nearly slip at the base of the steps, just as I silently feel pride in my practice in impermanence. I look down at the dark brown smear under my shoe, and the dismay dissipates quickly. I smile. I take my shoes off and walk to the back yard again, to rinse the mess off.
When I go back to the front yard to clean up so other travellers don’t meet the same misfortune, I discover that the smear of brown was in fact mud, shifted by the torrential rains of last night. I smile again at my assumptions. I then get a shovel, and chip away at the mud and clods of grass, breaking it back down to the conglomerate of the sidewalk. It’s hard work, and I’m feeling the cold and pain again, but I still feel good.
As I finish up, a raven comes down near me, and starts pecking at the garbage bag I’ve left there, ready to put into the bin. I call out to him not to be cheeky, as I put the bag inside. The ravens in the nearby branches are watching me, as they are watched by the distant star, and are none too pleased with me.
Finally, as I return to the house, I find another little parcel of brown near the front door, where a neighbouring cat has taken up residence often on our front mat, his matted white and grey fur tangled in the rushes. I look a little closer. It could be… It also could be a little cocoon, embalming some mysterious spider from this alien winter. I prefer that explanation, as I tip the little cocoon into the garden.
Sometimes, it’s not wise to pry too much into nature’s mysteries.
P.S. In writing this, I’m strongly reminded of the adventures of a beautiful and mysterious young girl, Opal Whitely. Perhaps sometime, you would like to read her adventures too!