Dipping into the Stream
Hobbs Hill, Saturday, August 25
Hoping to stretch my legs and get just a little exercise, I left home at about and headed to Moose Hill on foot. I had hopes of hiking all the way to the summit, but my weakness seems to overshadow my ambition these days. I never made it to the summit – not even close – but I had a good morning all the same.
The air was warm and humid. The woods were dry, quiet and still as I walked the trail to Hobbs Hill. Unseen spider strands, like invisible tripwires, snapped annoyingly on my face. We’ve had very little rain recently and even the deer flies and mosquitoes were subdued. I didn’t see any but it felt like a few mosquitoes were finding my back through the weave of my damp t-shirt, so I put on an old long-sleeved shirt I threw in my backpack just for times like these.
On top of Hobbs Hill, I saw where a very tough animal, indeed, had excavated a hive of ground-nesting yellowjackets from the soil between two boulders. It was hard to imagine the wasp eggs and larvae could have been worth the vicious stings. I took this as a reminder that survival in these woods is serious business.
My plan was to have a quick breakfast on one of my favorite rocks on
The sandwich of natural peanut butter and jelly on leftover Shabbat challah was decadent. The coffee made with a little Peet’s house blend left over from our trip to
One mental flow I keep dipping into these days are thoughts about Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and the words of poet/essayist/environmentalist Gary Snyder (Jaffy Ryder). I was channel surfing the other day and clicked by one of the self-help gurus PBS trots out when it’s fundraising time. I went back. Here was an older barefoot guy (Dr. Wayne Dyer) with a shaved head in black pajamas. Normally, I’d cruise right by a show like that. I am innately suspicious about shows aired just so a station can raise funds and the guest can sell books, but because of my recent reading about Buddhism and meditation, I paused and listened for a few minutes. Now, I’m not hunting for a new religion. I have no plans to study Buddhism or delve into the Tao Te Ching, but I’m happy to receive wisdom from any source. The one point I heard Dyer make – and this may have been the whole point of the show – was “Change your thoughts and change your life.”
I found an interview of Gary Snyder on the Web where he said he meditates a half hour every day. Now, I’ve never had any instruction in meditation at all, but from my moments of quiet reflection on Moose Hill and a few determined efforts to sit quietly and alone at home, I can see how regular meditation could change a life.
One practical function of such meditation might be to focus on things that are troubling the mind. It might take a special effort to truly discover, acknowledge and confront the problem that is causing the unease. I find that once a problem is identified, it helps to write it down. Then begins the task of finding a solution. Sometimes the solution may be simply understanding the error in the way we are thinking about something. Maybe something is bugging us and all we need to do is realize that it really has nothing to do with us, it’s none of our business, it is of no concern to us, and we should just let it go.
Some may teach that changing our thoughts is all that matters. This may be true, but it will be a long time before I’m convinced that many thoughts shouldn’t lead to positive action. It’s through our actions that we change our lives for the better and through our actions that people know us. That’s why, after I identify what it is that is troubling me, I often find peace by visualizing a plan of action to solve the problem. These plans are not just make-work to-do lists, but a means to smooth out a life and bring calm to the mind. Some of these actions may be simple, like finishing a nagging task we’ve been putting off. Others might be a bit more challenging, like fixing a broken career or wounded relationship.
So, while actions are important, maybe it’s best if they spring from a way of thinking that aims to bring peace to the mind. I like to think that peaceful minds lead to a peaceful world. Upon first meeting, it is almost customary for people to ask: “What do you do?” Perhaps a more important and interesting question might be: “What do you think about?”
At that point, my real food was gone, and I was equally satisfied with the food for thought Moose Hill Had provided. This nourishment was free and I didn’t even have to endure wasp stings to get it. I headed for home hoping I might be able to incorporate even a little of my Moose Hill dreaming into my everyday life.