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Tessa on South Boundary 10-15Hiking Spirituality

There are fewer out-of-state license plates at the trailhead and it’s too cold for pine nut pickers.

Ordinarily we think of November 1 as the first day of winter in the Southwest, and expect snow at any time.

But snow came in the high peaks three weeks earlier this year.

We’re glad it’s been raining here for the past two days. We need it.  And it dumped more snow on the peaks.

Our trail is not particularly temperature-friendly, being on the north side of the mountain.  But, our regular hikers and trail runners are out on this lovely sunny Sunday.

I love being on a trail first thing in the morning for it carries the fruits of my meditation further into the day’s pace. I simply watch for the firmest footing along the trail.

I just allow ideas that pop into mind to wing their way out and give my attention to the hiking.

Every now and then though, a useful insight arises in mind and tends to grapple with life’s mysteries.  It is tempting to go with that thinking.  Instead, I pull out a 3×5 card from my pocket, make note of it.  And allow the thought to fly away with the breezes too.

This serves two purposes — leave my mind free of thoughts of course, but also it is recorded for future consideration.  But, back home I go through the list to see which idea is worth further consideration.

Today the list is fairly ho hum. So I dis-card it.

Emptying the mind is more important that dwelling on useless ideas.


Why I Am a Hiker

Let me make a confession.

I was an un-athletic, fifty-pound weakling as a kid.  Completely incompetent at sports.

Whenever kids at school or in the neighborhood played baseball, I was the last one anyone wanted on their team.  Or next to last at least.

Furthermore, my mom was strict about forbidding me to hang out with groups of other kids, saying it was the best way for me to stay out  of trouble.  So, I never developed any social skills.

To top it off, my father and grandparents were “outsiders” and everyone knew that and avoided our company.  We were pretty much limited to our own family for socializing.

Taking to the woods was natural for me to feel comfortable.  I was able to take alone to the woods in my walks back and forth to school — elementary, junior high and to the bus stop for high school.

I had minimum social abilities, barely enough to greet people and bid them good-bye.  I became a real loner.

I did develop a bit of friendliness to others in the Boy Scouts and loved our hikes and camping.

On our rare short summer vacations I was able to get up early in the morning long before the rest of the family and go fishing from the lake shore where we camped.  It gave me a special enjoyable few hours each day.

And, as I said before, the one thing I most enjoyed about my father was the hunting trips he and I went on once every fall.  We would tramp through the woods without talking from daybreak until about noon when we would stop for lunch beneath huge oak trees.  Dad would then take a snooze leaning his back against a tree his legs stretched out in the dry leaves, while I sat very quietly listening to the sounds of the woodlands – a bird chirping, a chipper rustling through dry leaves, even a leaf touching down into the leaves on the forest floor.

As it should be obvious by now, the woods were a friendly escape for me.

Today no one would imagine that I was so shy, for I managed to gather some good social abilities along the way sufficient to earn a living.

But my true nature where I let down all my defenses is still the wilds out here in the backcountry where trees are my best friends.


As one of my favorite poets, Joyce Kilmer, has said:

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.


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