Rambling Post about Something, maybe Mindfulness?

We humans make a lot of choices — and pursue hobbies, interests — that, by their nature, silence the jumble in our minds. I’m not a climber but I’ve known enough climbers and done enough boldering (sometimes a little more) to understand how climbing pretty much eliminates anything from your thoughts except getting up safely and back down again (safely).

What I loved about hiking in the days when I could hike for hours and hours was that after a while something happened in my head and there was nothing left in there but the trail, whatever was happening in the natural world in those moments and my dogs. A lifetime of hiking habits has trained my mind so that even though now I don’t hike 12 miles a day, I can get into the “zone” pretty quickly, even riding the sainted “bike-to-nowhere.”

Several years ago, back in California when I had a shed that was a little art studio, I discovered that painting was the same thing. Out there — away from my house (only 10 feet or so) and focused on a canvas, panel or paper — all that mattered was the work I was doing and where it was taking me. Writing a good story can be the same.

It’s such a relief from all the stuff that clutters the inside of my head.

Yesterday — a cool, cloudy day, presaging fall — we headed out for a walk. I decided to take the trail along the Rio Grande. It was the first time this year because the pathway in was very overgrown in tall grass and weeds. I noticed yesterday that a few people have trodden down the plant life a little bit, so I parked, took out the dogs and made them walk behind me, single file — a new “trick” for Teddy.

I love the Rio Grande, and it’s fascinating to watch throughout the year. I have never lived beside a mostly-wild river before. The trail along the river is wide enough for an ATV cowboy to ride along which is good for me and the hounds. Most of the way the river runs alongside it. The sound fascinated Teddy who had never heard a river before — it was a little difficult to keep him where I wanted him, next to me. It seems like rattlesnakes are not very common down here on the floor of the San Luis Valley along the river, but years of hiking with them as an ambient part of the environment has made me very vigilant about the nether parts of the bushes lining a trail.

The cottonwoods are still mostly green. The wild asparagus is beginning to turn the glowing gold of fall. The milkweed is between seasons. It was a sweet walk. In the act of observing the natural world and noting the changes, the jumble clears.

We even have a word for this nowadays, “mindfulness.” I hate that word and all that is behind it, one more thing to add to our list of “shoulds.” I hate the way the outside has come to be regarded, too, like it’s someplace to go because it will “heal” you. To me, that turns nature into just one more commodity. Nature isn’t a “commodity” and it doesn’t exist to “teach us mindfulness” or heal us. Conceptually that’s one more step in the distancing of humans from the reality that WE are nature. It’s not “out there” it’s INSIDE, and that means we — consciously or unconsciously — play an active part.

I recently read that the elk population up on Vail Pass has declined by a drastic percentage not because of hunting or predation, but because more people are “going into nature” in elk habitat.

“…there’s been a dramatic increase in backcountry use in the past decade. Bertuglia noted that trail use in the Vail area has doubled since 2009. There’s 30 percent more overnight use in the same period.” Vail Daily

All this human traffic disturbs the elk’s breeding grounds. Without “privacy” in an undisturbed world, elk don’t breed. Wildlife managers close the area, but people ignore the closures believing, I guess, that their “right” to go into nature trumps nature’s right to be alone.

My wildlife area closes in March and doesn’t re-open until mid-July. Those are beautiful hiking months, and I wish I could go there but I don’t. The water birds nest there during that time and have for millennia, I imagine. I don’t doubt for one minute that just one person — just me — with two leashed dogs, could be enough to disturb that. It seems to me that “mindfulness” more properly means being aware of the consequences of our existence.

Chamisa, cottonwoods, fall approaching…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/rdp-monday-jumble/

7 thoughts on “Rambling Post about Something, maybe Mindfulness?

  1. That’s a good way of looking at mindfulness, Martha. Although I love my long walks through nature and history, I’m never sure whether I’ve attained this nebulous state of mindfulness. Either way, it is one of the best ways I’ve ever found to escape from all the stress and worries of life. Time out from the modern and human world is vital for me these days. Glad it still helps you. 🙂

  2. “What I loved about hiking in the days when I could hike for hours and hours was that after a while something happened in my head and there was nothing left in there but the trail”

    And that is why I refuse to give it up. After a while, I become a part of the landscape. Everything has receded except the feel of the sun and the wind, the sights and sounds of the forest/chaparral/desert/whatever. Probably a lot closer to how my dog experiences it.

    Some people like to think on their walk. I like to walk until I stop thinking. That’s when the real hike begins.

    I know I see a lot more wildlife and catch a lot more flowers than the other people I’ve hiked with. I love the story of my insignificance it whispers to me. And then I’m back at the car and have to go home. (And maybe get dressed… 😦 )

    • I also love the fact that after a while, I am no longer some important entity with world-shattering problems. I’m just Martha and nature knows who that is (and reminds me as it did just now on a walk. I sprained my foot not watching where I was going). 😦

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