The nature trail

Miscellanea #51: Ruminating on a walk through the woods, Buddhist wisdom and the state of nations, and more

Down Florida and just past Bayou Castine, the preserve and its trails are generously boring — just enough so that when you reach the cypress pond or later the grassy lake, there lies a parish incomparable. These are the secrets of my childhood; infinite treasures in quiet parcels of undeveloped pine forests: an abandoned general store bulked with tin signs and glass bottles, fawns parading the bowels of a hidden tree farm.

The trails become a lens, every weightless step pulling more into focus. I see canine tracks and crawfish mounds, rotting tents and muddy Coke cans, janky bridges and elastic trees. But mostly I remember how it feels, an indescribable bliss. My memories are the shape of earth.

A fire line splits the preserve in two, and splotching the fire line are pipelines: frugal, grey, and angular. It would appear that I’m trading my memories for fuel and plastics. Is it only a matter of time until the sky forever grays? The trees and everything below them will eye-drop the sky — an acceptance of their colorless fate.

But right now, there is color. Tiny yellow fallen flowers dot the trail and bright green algae contour the deep brown mud where the water has retreated, for now, into deeper ground. Further ahead, the tall grass is dead yellow, and the lake is reflecting the cerulean sky and the oaky silver of its branchy neighbors. The earth is smiling, and Maggie and I follow suit.

It’s a reminder. The present moment is groundedly colorful. It does not trade itself for the past or hueless future. But like a smile, it comes and goes — effortless. To walk in the woods is to escape into the now, the only and vibrant reality.

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