Yesterday I went to the Tualatin Hills Nature Center, just down the street from our apartment on Murray Blvd. It was good to get out and walk among the trees. It was my first real walk since I’ve been home. I did have two days outside while attending PLDC (Sgt’s school that is two weeks long) en route from Iraq to home, but I was in the middle of a land navigation course and my mind wasn’t able to relax fully. Now I was home with no thoughts of when the next formation was, or what the rest of my team was doing… no demands, no responsibilities… just time.
It was chilly outside, scattered showers and occaisional hail. I dressed in layers, grabbed my camera and travel journal and set out. I hadn’t gone far when I was compelled to take pictures. Shortly, a kinldy old woman came walking downt the trail and chatted with me, telling me of an’s owl’s nest not too far away. This got me excited… for I love raptors and corvids. I thanked her and continued on my way, stopping at every little thing that caught my eye.
I watched the nest for a while, hoping to get a glance of whatever used it. I saw and heard nothing. I struggled to remember details about the nesting habits of owls, thinking that they used several nests in a territory, but not feeling too confident in the memory.
After a little while I went further, walking down the damp pathways of the nature center, hearing the sound of traffic beyond the forest, looking at the wildness around me. There are many little parks (though this is the largest) in Beaverton, sprinkled throughout the city. Beaverton is nice and clean, very much a “yuppie” city where the inhabitants, though they live stacked atop each other in townhouses, know the value of green around them. Thoughts of ecopsychology entered my mind, the impact of green belts on real estate value, the value of open spaces for children to play in, the nurturing of quiet spaces for people to walk in, to let their souls breath deeply. As I thought of all these things, I thought of how drug dealers might use the park at night and how comfortable would I feel to let future children of mine come down to the park alone. It is difficult to balance need for security and freedom. Wasn’t I just thinking to myself about coming out here sometime after midnight and walk among the sounds of the night forest?
While walking, my mind was like a labrador retriever, going out to fetch whatever it thought I flung out. In the past when walking was a common activity for me, I would enter the activity with an open mind to whatever thoughts, or “lesson from the gods” would come. However, walking around for me in the recent past has been a bit different and I found it hard to forget what was going on around me. I was terribly distracted and antsy, even humming Pantera songs to myself. Pantera while on a peaceful walk? I would try to banish the song from my mind, only to have it return more forcefully. Try as I might, I could not be mindful of my self or my environment. I was on full react mode.
Instead of trying to change things, I simply went along with it, singing “Cowboys from Hell” and going from camera shot to camera shot, not trying to force myself into any sense of peace or mindfulness. Slowly, without realizing it (until now), I began to attend to that around me in a more meaningful manner. I wondered about the two creeks and the paths that the water takes along rooftops and parking lots to finally get to this nature center. I thought about the trees and the grasses and the fungi between them. When I passed an interesting plant I wanted to know it’s name and what a biologist could tell me about it. When I passed a particular view I wanted to stop and write a haiku or something. When I came to an open spot in a grove I wanted to hold a ritual of thanks for my life. And along the walk in all it’s phases I talked to myself and the gods.
Religion is one of those topics that one doesn’t start on, yet at times we find ourselves in the middle of it. I’ve not broadcasted my beliefs, yet I’ve not shunned from others about them. It isn’t a nice feeling to have loved ones turn their faces from you for your beliefs, it is worse still to live a lie for them and others. Why should anyone lie to me what it is that is in their hearts? Why should I ever have to lie to them the same? Are the beliefs in my heart and the love I feel any less because I do not have a social demograph behind it, readily available on a shelf? “Look, here are others like me… see that building with a cross on it? Look inside… see… I’m not crazy!” There are many others out there like me, and we gather on the eight holidays through the year. The next one is Beltane, May 1st, and it will be my first holiday home!
But I am on another tangent. I should rename my blog to “tangents are us”. Thinking of all the interests to my mind and heart, I found that in all of them, being a pagan (being a witch), coupled with them all. As a pagan I could be playful, solem, political, scientific, poetic, practical, jubilant with the environment around me. It transforms the environment from a simple “out there” or “around me” that I must either put on a rain coat for or something to log for a job, to something that is many things for me at one time. It is a source of inspiration, a source for nourishment, a source for tools and resources for shelter and employment, a source of awe, a gateway to communicate with the sacred, a mirror of the processes of my own heart and mind, and more. A witch is often said to be one that walks between the worlds, and the corporate world and the environmental world seem to be at odds.
There is a lot of talk about diversity and it is a sacred cow of the left. Is diversity all it’s cracked up to be? Why yes, look at a healthy forest! It is filled with diversity and this allows it to respond to the threat of a virus and other problems much better than a farm forest. True. Yet if we approach diversity in this vain, then we should allow for the virus to prosper also. Yet, in thinking about diversity I also noticed that in the forests of the world that I’ve been in, Hawaii, Thailand, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, California, Alaska, Oregon, Iraq (yes… a palm grove)… that each one of them holds acharacteristic that makes it unique to the others. A forest in eastern Oregon is not the same as in western Oregon and in healthy examples of both, diversity is evident.
The point here is that diversity, while needed, must be able to stand on its own, that not all dogs should get their day, that if something doesn’t work or harmful to the rest, then that thing be allowed to perish. The problem with the priests of diversity is that they place diversity above health. If we followed their method in regard to the care of forests, then we’d bring in every species of tree we could find and plot the land up in equal squares and let every tree get it’s “rightful” spot and quota of sunshine and water because “no one tree is better than another tree and all must be made equal”.
And as I begin to get further into these ideas, I reach the parking lot and the end of my walk. As I walk to my truck I think of talks that I’ve had with many of the soldiers that I was in Iraq with, many of whom are from southern Oregon and have ties to the logging industry and how angry they were at the mere mention of the word “environmentalist”. It took some coaxing and subtle means of communicating to get to the heart of the issue for many of them, to learn why they hated environmentalists as much as they did. Environmentalists are pot smoking free loaders who don’t work and pass stupid laws that put mills out of business that hurt the chances for honest working folk to provide for their families. I would begin to feel this anger directed at me (for arguing against clearcutting in a watershed) and I would remind them to look at me… I was wearing body armor and carrying an M-4, I wasn’t the hippie kind they spoke of.
And so I thought more to myself as I started the truck and drove home, of trying to create an environmental organization that bridged the gaps between the hippies and the loggers. A daunting task, but a witch is supposed to walk between the worlds, I’ve been told.