Leah’s Walk in the Woods

December 11, 2018

Every leaf, blade of grass, layer of bark, was frosted stiff and sparkling. It couldn’t wait for me to crunch it and pat it down flat with my feet. Or maybe I’m projecting. They probably liked it. I crunched around the whole time I was in the woods, I didn’t even consider sitting still. I needed movement to stay warm and I needed to see more. When I walk on an unpaved trail, I usually only look down to watch my footing. It’s a nice view but it’s not as spectacular as what is around and above me. I wonder if the deer and raccoons watch their feet while they walk, or if they’re used to the uneven ground enough that they can look out ahead toward where they’re going rather than just two steps ahead. I’ve been working on giving myself time and space to breathe and process the things that happen to me and I knew that this was one of those times. I let myself think about the excitement of yesterday. I chose to push my boundaries in several different ways and the only way to cope in the midst of it is to not think too much about how outlandish and new everything feels. Now that it’s over though, I want to think about it and appreciate the place that I’m in. I always dreamt of a day when my friends would come to the comet to see me running the show. I ought to tell myself from April that on December 10th I’d be the featured performer during a show hosted by Triiibe, and that Siri would be writing me notes of encouragement before I went on. I’d look out into the audience and see support and smiles from every angle from old and new friends. I’d also meet people for the first time by yelling poetry at them from a stage. Their first impression of me is performer. I can only imagine how things will progress. Regardless of it all, these woods I come to digest it all in will be here. The leaves will crunch beneath my feet and they’ll be more successful than me in just being, and I’m happy with that.

 

December 6, 2018

I’m interested in creating peace. In neighborhoods, families, in the hearts of my loved ones, and in myself. Myself is a newer one. I think about my newfound internal gentleness with each step I take on the frozen mat of fallen leaves. I remind myself not to attack my subconscious with false assumptions, for example that I’m constantly falling short of people’s expectations, including my own. When I get to my spot in the woods I don’t demand that I sit and meditate. I just let my mind wander in whichever direction it wanted and I took in my surroundings. I sat like a hobbit or a frog with my knees bent and my walking stick keeping me upright. I liked how much I felt like a child. I should always strive to feel comfortable and safe like a child. The stream was bubbling in front of me and I daydreamed about what my new living situation would be like. I hope that I do lots of cooking and that my roommates and I will be lighthearted and laugh a lot. I hope we will share food and time together. I hope lots of people come through our doors. I thought I heard Jim whistle but when I managed to stumble back up the hill, slippery with leaves, he was not in the usual spot. The fork in the trail looked different without him standing in it.

 

November 20, 2018

It was cold today, and my mind was with me. But love and abundance has been flowing to me externally from all directions since the moment I woke up, so my mind ought to have been less of a hostile place than normal. These are some of the things inside my brain: I thought about veganism, how maybe I ought to dedicate more time and effort to eating more consciously for myself and for the earth, it sure does feel good to stand for and believe in something. Maybe I’ll work harder to make my own meals and eat locally. I thought about Max and all that he does to build me up, and how almost every other romantic relationship I’ve had outside of him feels traumatic. I usually end up having a crying fit when I’m with him because he says or does something else so sweet that makes me feel more respected than ever. I thought about my new lyft job and the things I could do with it. I want to keep a journal of all the people I meet. Thought about how another person texted me unsolicitedly to check in which felt really nice since we’d been at odds for a while. Above all of this, though, I was really interested in having a true meditation. After a while of sitting I got the warm stillness tingle in my body that is distantly familiar. It was really special to pair it with the sounds of the running water and hail, plus the feeling of the teeny tiny ice droplets on my body that didn’t hurt, but almost tickled. All of the earth is so magical.

 

October 31, 2018

I love that it’s Halloween today. Nature seems to know it, as the sky has darkened to a 30% grey, still light but no sign of the sun so it’s wonderfully eerie. The trees are blowing and the wind is teetering the line between calm and threatening. Mostly comfortable and safe with a slight menace that activates a trickle of adrenaline through the blood stream.

I dove into the woods. Gorgeous as always. I’ve compared them to a lover and I will again. I never get tired of seeing its face, and its beauty knocks me every time. Today so many of the trees are gold. And a cascading Disney shower of fat golden leaves fell straight onto me. I could think of nothing but the colors before my eyes. The blue-grey of the sky. The contrast of the green yet to turn. The purple aster amongst the decaying leaves. I never feel quite deserving of such enchanting beauty.

While I lay there taking it all in I thought of Jim, experiencing something similar not too far from me. I knew for a fact that he was appreciating the awe in its entirety because the woods mean so much to him. I sent gratitude for how kind and giving he is, knowing I wouldn’t ever have a boss quite like him again. Most employers I know aren’t set out to expose you to the wonder that realizing you’re one with earth can do for your existence. But it’s been working for me thus far.

 

October 23, 2018

Sitting on my log felt to me like a kindergartner sitting on her favorite carpet square. Like reconnecting with a teddy bear. An inanimate object that I love and have grown attached to. Though inanimate, very alive. In the woods today I pondered what I’d found to be the meaning of the red bird, since I’ve seen a lot of them lately. Resetting goals, intentions, maybe fixing something about your life. As usual, these animal totems feel very relevant. Being very sick has given me space and time to reset in a lot of ways. Choosing what is important to me, enjoying a balance of life, slowing down and being patient so that I can really enjoy things, getting over my fear of missing out. Cleaning out my car, room, relationships and thoughts. Feeling empowered. I want to minimize and downsize so that I feel less weighed down. And I want to keep trying to escape my phone addiction. While I sat and pondered these things, I felt my body mimic still water. My mind didn’t follow but I didn’t need it to right now.

 

October 16, 2018

Today in the woods my mind was on racial violence and police brutality. I’d just watched the documentary 13, which is a very heavy piece on the history of racism in America and how it’s been passed down to our industrial prison system. I’ve thought about the luxury of safety that I experience as a white educated wealthy person, the tippy top of the social food chain. I thought about some deer I saw scampering through the yard last night, the fear they experience as animals of prey. I don’t often experience that kind of fear except for by my fellow humans, and it usually is when my identity as a woman makes me feel the most vulnerable. There are always power structures at play, even within one’s own species. I heard coyotes howling in the distance, and though their sound was unusual and off-settling, it was more comforting than anything. More comforting than the sound of police sirens or gunshots, that’s for sure. I thought about how systems, like society and organizations, though all they are comprised of is multiple individual humans, they form a totally different entity. A beast. Perhaps that too is something to fear in the urban jungle.

 

October 9 2018

 

I wondered if I’d see any turkeys this morning. I’ve already seen a great abundance, maybe wanting more and more and more is the exact opposite of their message, which is contentment and gratitude. That makes me feel more at peace. I cannot recall in my lifetime feeling the way I do now about falling leaves, though I know I’ve seen them every year. How could I have taken them for granted for so many years? They are gently cascading drops of light, pieces of a tree, dying tree, tree hair or flakey skin. Falling everywhere, gently coating the earth. In warm colorful snowflakes. It’s sick and elegant. A little bird stood near my head. When I turned and gave it a side glance, we made eye contact and it flew off, startled. I was startled too, and would have flown off if the bird was so much bigger than me. Some red-tailed hawks squawked their little song and flew overhead. I don’t know birds but I was hoping that that was the kind of bird they were, because they remind me of my good friend Rachel. The stillness settled in a little more and monkey mind was swallowed by the infantile blue sky that the birds swam through.

 

October 2, 2018

Ephemerality is a difficult concept to accept. It seems sometimes like my only two options when it comes to acknowledging that all things will end is either resistance and resentment or nihilism and giving up.

What’s the point of caring about anything and getting attached if you’re just going to have to move on? Or, if I love this person place or thing so much, I’m going to do everything I can to keep it from parting with me. Both mentalities seem to be unhealthy. So while I gazed at the surrounding trees in a spot in the forest that I have, in fact, become attached to, and will have to part from to some extent, I tried to devise a coping philosophy that was neither of these. Non-resistance and agency came to mind. Letting things happen as they will, in their natural order, and faith in my own ability to return to and hold onto the things that matter most. I’ll come back to these woods until the day I day if it truly means that much to me. Because I can. I’ll live many lifetimes and call upon them with fondness. Present. Enjoy this lifetime while it’s all I know and have. Some green leaves shook in the wind, they were with me. Stillness. Let it sink in, don’t be so busy that the time whips by when driving from place to place like another car that passes me on the highway. Sit and enjoy because existence is the first and last great feat.

 

September 18, 2018

 

My life goes on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation. Jim sometimes sings that song, and I sing along because I know it from way way back in the earliest memories of my hippocampus. My oldest brother sang it in his high school choir and I, under the age of 10, never forgot the way it made me feel. Now that I consider the lyrics further, I realize how perfect a description it is. My life goes on and on and on and on, miracle after miracle after miracle. In the form of internal peace or unrest, revelations and self-love. In the form of encountering gorgeous scenery or angelic inspiring people every day. Reconnecting with important people, moving fast like an ocelot and steady like an armadillo. Everything goes on in the form of a living breathing song.
It’s no wonder I think so much, albeit calmly, in the forest. I have so much to think about, digest. I don’t want to miss it. When I noticed the mind chatter in the woods, I thought of my turkey totem and applied their message to whatever was on my mind. This or that person I talked to. This journey. This success. This plan and item I lost. It is all abundance. I’ve got more than enough life, and it’s all wonderful.

 

September 11, 2018

Before I even got to my sitting spot, I slipped but caught myself thanks to the slick mud. Helloo adrenaline, good morning to you! I proceeded with caution. The next surprise came when I got to my destination, two enormous turkeys were chilling on my tree! Enormous. They saw me, hopped off in fright and then got up and flew into the spot between the ground and the tree tops where I always wished I could fly. It was massively satisfying to hear their vast wings push the wind under them and to go into the abyss like dinosaurs.

The forest is awake and alive and is calling me to join. It was pretty clear from the shouting of the stream that had just been refilled with water, and the insects that were singing along. Though, it could have been screaming, making the message all the more urgent. I tried to listen. I listened a little bit. I know that choosing to be zen is preferred over holding my ever fluctuating to-do list in my head. I’ve become such an adult. I do not want to lose my playfulness, and so I listen to the creek cackle and I laugh along, and decide to do so for the rest of the day.

 

September 4, 2018

 

It’s so good to be back to the Midwest hardwood forest. Familiar, comfortable but radiantly beautiful with brand new energy, different every time you behold it. Like the face of your lover. Something that is constant and dependable, and yet alive with new stories to share. The woods are their own beast, but as one and the same as me as could be.

 

As I lay on my favorite fallen tree I recalled a short exchange I had with a person who felt really safe and gentle. He said that sometimes he just needs to write things down before he forgets, often about his reaction to trees. I asked if I could read some of it but he said it was too personal, which makes me appreciate it all the more.

 

I meditated. Just the beginning phases of a profound meditation, as if I was knees deep in the water of peace and understanding. Which was refreshing enough. I thought about another inspiring person I met yesterday and daydreamed some of our future interactions without any anxiety or ego. She too was safe, and an abundant resource of reassurance and wisdom. I sat in my mind’s eye in a comfortable room full of soft floors, teddy bears, and pillows with she and others. There I stayed for a while. Until I peeked my eyes open and nearly had my breath knocked away by the vast eternity of the landscape. I giggled and greeted the trees with my beginner’s mind. We recognize each other a little better when I am clear and less self-deprecating. The normal tendencies of my harsh mind returned but not with full force. I heard Jim whistle in three different pitches and I laughed at the playfulness. It was my signal to return.

 

August 14 2018

 

Sitting in Dessa’s and Jim’s spots in the woods and having them at mine, fulfilled the togetherness longings I generally experience. It offered a new perspective of the woods and gave me a greater appreciation of my own spot. That I have a fallen tree teeming with life that I consistently visit and create moments with. I thought about how September is coming soon, like in that R.E.M. song. I reflected about my poem I wrote and thoughts I had this morning. How much I love the mornings, being in the crisp new air with a crisp new life. And I had a cliché revelation that days are like tiny years. Spring in the morning and winter at night. No wonder I love mornings so much. I looked at some leaves in Dessa’s spot and prayed to my old Christian God that I can get through the winter with minimum internal suffering. Is there beauty to be found in the night and winter of our lives? Yes, I know the answer is yes, of course it is. I know every external situation to have light and dark, but things like depression really do keep us, or at least me, from recognizing the positivity. I wonder how my performance at my last job would have been drastically different if I had not been having such severe mental health issues. I began to brainstorm ways to express those dark times in my life as art, as we moved from tree to tree.

 

August 7 2018

The woods have become a familiar friend, which I am super thrilled about. I went to my spot on my off day a few days ago and it never ceases to amaze me. Even when I go to the same spot I see new astounding beauty. On that day I saw the world with the eyes of an infant. I kept telling my friends I felt like I was just waking up from a coma. The black berries we inspected were alien, sheer, each seed bulb reflected light, each had little hairy stems. Each had infinite juice. The tomatoes, berries, cucumber, eggplant, all gave the effort of an entire existence to birthing new life. It moved me to tears. I felt as though I took life for granted by stuffing these beings in my mouth without any admiration, and for considering myself, that I should not have children. I acknowledged that my relationship with food is so different now that I grow it from seed. Starting my day off in the woods was a perfect choice.

This morning the dense trees gave me what I needed once again, which was rest. First I thought for a bit about the amazing unique voice of the woman I saw at the show last night. I felt angry and jealous, honestly. I wonder if I could ever achieve her level of confidence, skill, and creativity. Eventually the thoughts quieted. The birds were soooo loud. I spotted a little red one a ways away. After glancing around and allowing myself to be blown away by this very special living sunlight green of the leaves that surrounded me on all sides, I settled into my fallen tree and dozed off. What a peaceful place to rest. I feel that once you nap somewhere or cuddle with someone in your sleep, a sweet bond has been formed. We surrendered our independence to each other, the tree and I, and hugged it out while I went to dreamland, and while it watched me dream. When I woke briefly, I smiled, so at home. Perhaps I’d sleep better here than in a room. I flipped over onto my stomach, straddled the tree, hugged it loosely, and continued my snooze. I thought I must look as if I belonged there. Like a bear on a log. Except I have purple galaxy pants and blue hair. I’m redefining the prospect of “natural,” because I surely am that. I’m a blue and purple galaxy bear, natural habitat: Midwest forest.

A poem I wrote a while ago that I wasn’t especially fond of came to mind, just one line, the one about how mother earth can bring you rest. When I go to the woods for emotional healing, sometimes I cry. When I need a meditation, sometimes I sit. When I need introspection, that’s what I get. Last week I thought of the line about rainy tears. Could it be possible that this poem I wrote has the potential to be a timeless classic?

 

July 31 2018

 

Oh my, oh my, oh my goodness. It was raining this morning, which, as you can imagine, amplified the beauty and mystique of the forest. When I looked down while I treaded the path I recently cleared, the short green stems bursted out of the damp muddy earth in a glowy living greenness. How can something like that just spring out of the mud?? It does it all of the time!
And while I looked up, I saw these being that were so much taller than me. Draped in soft leafy hair, their afros coming together in a canopy. I liked that I could see a clearing ahead, and I got that familiar dinosaur feeling. It happens when I feel prehistoric, in touch with a past life, as if I’ve been living in the outdoors for centuries. Jim hypothesizes that I am not, in fact, a dino, but that I as a mere human am just as much a creature of the earth. He believes that I’m reconnecting with my innate prehistoric oneness with the earth.

It’s really amazing. I’ve understood the words and the lesson over and over and over. Nature is great. Nature is pretty. Protect it. Play in it. But it’s that last message that truly has me understanding the significance. The actual tangible completeness we have when we connect. We are earth has taken on an entirely new meaning to me.

I sat on my log with a small degree of separation from the wet carpet feel beneath my booty from the cardboard. I listened to the rain. It was pelting down harder and harder. I felt I was being heard, felt, acknowledged. I sat in the lotus position with my thoughts. I sat and sat and sat until I sat myself into peaceful stillness. The rain didn’t go easy on me, and I let it happen. I often find myself to be quite nonresistant in the woods. I find myself letting the woods happen.

I thought of a line in a poem I wrote, which reads something like, “her rainy tears are shed for you, like any mother, she has feelings too.” As I looked at my thoughts I recognized that I have a lot of healing that needs to be done. The earth has a lot of hurt too. For a moment, we held each other, both healthy, safe and emotional. I held earth as she cried on me, and when Jim and I exited the woods, the raining let up.

 

July, 24 2018

Do do do do do doooooo. My favorite fallen tree was damp today from the rain before which made for a wet booty. Good thing the folks I’m with won’t think any less of me for it. I situated myself comfortably in an upright position and the memories of the night prior came channeling through. I realized that my Monday nights are always especially eventful, and so the restlessness is carried into my Tuesday mornings. It’s an opportune dichotomy of energy levels, though. To sit still after so much activity. I feel that my life is so densely rich that if I don’t take time to sit and digest the magic I will get a stomach ache. So I got to really digest this morning.

I’ve been practicing meditation a little bit more recently, and it was evident in my forest time. “First the body finds stillness and then the mind follows.” I felt the shields, oras, subtle bodies, whatever you call that extra presence that tingles and extends out of your shoulders, feeling like a glowy extra sensory facilitator is called. I sat with it for a while and when I opened my eyes everything was bright. I thanked the green sunny abyss for holding me like a baby.

After I broke the meditation, I watched the little details. There were plenty of ants navigating this great big world. One was seemingly attempting to make its way up a branch but checking out each leaf as it went. I felt badly that it had such a short range of awareness of its surroundings. If only it could see that each leaf was suspended in the air and would not lead it anywhere, or that there was no food to be found on them, it wouldn’t waste its time exploring it.

But maybe this ant is like the birds I saw the other day with a lovely lovely person. As we watched the flock, I pointed out that they were swooping around in figure 8’s and circles. They weren’t going anywhere. They must be dancing or playing. She said, “they have a lot of free time,” and that might have been the 6th time she read my mind. More to come.

My imagination had loosened. I imagined an earth occupied by sentient two-legged beings significantly bigger than humans, maybe high-rise building size. In addition to humans. If one of them saw me making wrong turn after wrong turn in my Toyota corolla, as I often do, would it get frustrated and pick my car up and put me where I wished to go? Or where it thought I wished to go? How would I feel about that? That would be a wicked form of transportation. So what if ants had cars or airplanes? Where would they fly to? What would an ant scale version of going from Ohio to Oregon to New York in search for a place to feel at home look like to them? We are no where near less clueless than these explorer ants. We are probably much more so. When we look for something we often don’t even know what for. At least ants know why they go, it’s a hunt for food, right? I shouldn’t pretend to know.

I felt multiple tiny bodies crawl over my ankles and I let them. They’d figure out eventually that my foot would lead to nothing sweet.

 

July 17, 2018

Right before bed I happened upon an Instagram post with an image of a woman slowly exhaling smoke. She said she was smoking sage. She said that healing is not linear. She said to be present, aware, and free and that things will come. I held onto these words this morning and probably will continue to. It’s a truth I already know and that I’m ready to practice. Ready because it’s now. I’m no readier than any other now I have experienced because there will always be some sort of mental itch holding me back from feeling perfectly at peace without effort. But more seemingly ready at this point in time because I recognize that.

This, and the typical neuroticism of going through last night’s interactions, hypothetical conversations, and other pressing matters like relationship maintenance were things I carried onto my beloved fallen mossy tree this morning. The latter especially is something that would normally knock the air out of my lungs and send my on a downward spiral of anxiety but this morning it did not so much get to me. I smile, thinking about that now. I know I need not worry about people leaving my life just because I take weeks to text them back, it will get done when it gets done, maybe today.

Incessant buzzing. The flies are so active this morning. I swatted them away after they didn’t let up. But that didn’t really do the trick. It dawned on me that perhaps they were trying to call me back to the present. Can something that I’ve been trained to consider a nuisance serve as a tool for finding my zen? They were landing on me and buzzing all around but not doing any further harm. This morning I was unable to reach a point of complacence with them but I’m going to keep working on this.

I looked at the flatness of the leaves and my eyes widened. Remarkable! Those leaves don’t look like they should all be so perfectly flat, parallel to the ground and the sky. Their spindling branches surely aren’t. They aren’t resting on any still water. The magic of nature hit me in a short burst.

Back to thinking about the lives of others. How I handled controversial interactions last night, well. And I’m recognizing that this pain and controversy is actually a key to my freedom. Things like this are always opportunities to strengthen my character and learn about myself, to emotionally support myself. I discovered new wonderful things about people. Where will those relationships lead? Found myself feeling increasingly comfortable in my skin. I had a very full day yesterday, now that I think about it. I progressed in my politics and even had an ice cream park date. I peed in the bushes but my friend didn’t mind. He guarded me from the passers-by.

I zoomed back in. and

I saw a single leaf or some piece of debris fall gently as leaves do and it stilled my restless insides as if I was on the leaf being rocked by the breeze and soothed to rest in mute suspension. I considered that autumn here would be especially beautiful but I halted my thought. Because summer is a rarity that allows us to not wish for anything but our current state of being. Summer can stay as long as it wants.

 

July 10, 2018

The sun is so healthy and present today. It showed off a green shade in the leaves that I don’t often notice. It also put a spotlight on an immaculate spider web suspended just above our heads, like a chill-inducing but beautiful-in-its-rainbow-luminescence archway. A spider was stationed directly in the middle, fierce but peaceful.

When I arrived at my favorited fallen tree I almost didn’t recognize it. The moss looked like an unhealthy olive green, but I saw it through a lens of neutrality. Still so lovely. I tiptoed across the log onto a portion directly above the creek bed. I took note of the dry rocks that hadn’t been licked by any running water in a while, though there was a still pool beneath me. The log made a very satisfying woody noise when I knocked on it with my boot. I figured that must be what a ripe watermelon sounds like. Not long after sitting down, my hands started to itch like mad. The only place I didn’t bother to apply repellent. I had the mantra, “everything is connected,” running through my soul but at this moment I thought, “Can everything be connected except for the mosquitos?” I smacked one on my elbow and exploded its belly full of my rich dark blood. “Everything is connected.” The feeling ebbed and flowed.

During the flow, I felt very liberated, as I knew I had nothing to defend. I considered the human relations in my life that itched and overwhelmed like the mosquitos, and a line from Jesus’s crucifixion came to mind, “They know not what they do,” I began to forgive the mosquitos. I feel that a new more ornate mantra brought to me by the mosquitos is to accept and rejoice over love when it comes and to, of course, give back as much as I can muster. On the flip side, don’t dwell on little disappointments or put too much pressure on beings to be exactly whom you want or expect of them. Another reminder to stay on the sunny side, and in the wise words of Brue Lee, be water, because everything around and in me is fluid.

 

 

 

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