January 27th I am to lead a hike around Mt Pisgah Arboretum. It is the hike for the month of January by a group at the U.U. church. The last hike I went on with the group (and the first one as well) was to a state park in the Mohawk Valley nearby. It was an interesting little hike, though too fast paced for my sauntering (Thoreau) nature.
While driving back to town on the last hike with one of the coordinators, she mentioned that Mt Pisgah was in consideration for January. I said that I had spent many many many hours at Mt Pisgah and that I had a guide book for it. Back in 2000 I was wanting to take volunteer training so that I could lead groups of school children around the arboretum. The early hours of the hikes (9:00 am… gasp) and my bartending lifestyle proved to be too much at odds for me. So I never finished the classes and never lead any children on any hikes. But during the latter half of the 2000 year and the first half of the 2001 year (until my car broke down in the beginning of Spring) I spent many many days in the arboretum. I found things everywhere, knew of nest sites, crossings of turkey, hangouts of owls, and other cool things. My normal hike is to go slowly, to stop often, to absorb the world around me and to quieten the world within me. As such I learned a lot about the arboretum and came to know its regular patterns.
That seems like a long time ago. I’ve been out of touch with it. Even with my Trooper giving me access to the arboretum I’ve not been there much at all. Perhaps six times over the past 9 months. Too few.
I’ve got an idea about which route to take on the hike, but I want to familiarize myself with the park once more. I can’t do this on an hour a day. I need time to breathe. I have to be able to go to a place and feel that I can leave it whenever I am ready (an hour, six hours, end of the day), and feel as though I call fully steep myself into the forest around me.
I will have an opportunity to visit the place tomorrow morning before work. I need to. I must. It will not be easy to get up so early after a late night at work, knowing that I must also go to work at the bar for the daytime hours, that a drive to Portland awaits me after work, that once I arrive in Portland there will not be any sleep for a few more hours. Yet I need it. This past Sunday the weather was so clear and sunny and I was unable to go out to the arboretum (due to my own inability to plan and my own slothful nature) that I entered into a state of depression. I felt as though a friend that I had not seen in years had arrived at the train station for a brief moment before taking off again and I was unable to go visit.
From my small hiking journal, Oct 10, 2000
The rain begins again. Around me are the sounds of the forest soaking up the water. It is by far more pleasant than any aria I’ve ever heard. How is it that man believes he can build a building, call it a church, mosque, whatever, and deem it holy? How on Earth can it be any more holy than this wonderful Earth around us? The man-made building is a mediator between man and his god. This middleman must get it wrong. History has shown me over and over again that it has. Only in Nature, in solitude, can man meet God face to face with no other distractions save his own shortcommings and fears.
I don’t have much time to write at the moment. I am soon off on an errand. Yet the point that I was making was not that in nature we are face to face with god, i.e. a tree (as is so often confused with neo-pagan ideas) but that in Nature we are in contact with the older environment of our species, the older backdrop for the journey within our own search for identity and self. Just as a species of bird learn to associate brightly colored moths with poison, so to have humans evolved with this backdrop of nature as the setting for our projection of our psyche. It is a shared psychological phenomenon.
I must now go.