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I haven't blogged much these past weeks as Dan and I have been enjoying our vacation in the northwest. First driving from Seattle to Montana, then back to Seattle, we finished our time with a four day circle which took us through Mt Rainier, Yakima, Hood River, and up the Oregon Coast. Taking a pass on processing verbally, I instead spent each evening downloading, editing, and then posting the day's top images on my facebook page where I could relive the grandeur once again.

It is healing to be in nature - to be in landscapes that dwarf you, to stop thinking, analyzing, imagining, controling. You offer your presence, your attention to the beauty that surrounds you, letting it rush into your soul like the cataracts crashing their way down from snow-covered peaks. You allow yourself to be wordless, the response only a deep breath, or unbidden tears.

It requires, especially for those of us who tend to be analytical, a conscious effort. As  the following poem by C.P. Cavafy shows, one needs to be willing to stop, both physically and mentally, to actually see.

Morning Sea
Let me stop here. Let me, too, look at nature awhile.
The brilliant blue of the morning sea, of the cloudless sky,
the shore yellow; all lovely,
all bathed in light.

Let me stand here. And let me pretend I see all this
(I actually did see it for a minute when I first stopped)
and not my usual day-dreams here too,
my memories, those sensual images.

Although I have had extremely intense experiences of connecting with the universe through my intuition, the path of the senses is one that has been traveled over the centuries. Choosing to shut down the one and be open to the other allows an equally intimate and immediate way of union with the universe. This is the gist of the following passage from Lord Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," which has been a favorite of mine for some time. I love it for the way it expresses what is often inexpressible.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its road:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne're express, yet cannot all conceal.

I found, as I traveled through the northwest, that each of these experiences drew me back to the Creator of such beauty. There is an old hymn I've often song, but never as meaningfully as when I couldn't sing it, standing in a mountain pass overlooking Mt. Rainier.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur...
Then sings my soul, my savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

To view the porfolio of God's handiwork, just a fraction of the beauty that is part of our earth, brought forth joy at such a deep level, I couldn't choke out a word. Instead, I let my heart sing and did not try to stop the tears from flowing.
 
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I like who I'm becoming. This morning on my walk, I passed a family down by the Yellow Breeches. They were on a nature outing. "Hoping to discover something?" I asked. The two children were quiet. Who was this strange woman? "Perhaps you'll see our blue heron," I added.
 
"A blue heron?" The boy looked up at me. "That's a bird, right?"

I nodded. "And you should keep an eye out for the kingfisher. Here's what he sounds like." I tried my best to imitate the chirping sound I'd heard the other day.

The boy started dancing around - "a kingfisher! I've read about those in books!" 

His growing enthusiasm made me grin. "And we also have some familiies of bluebirds", I said, trying to think about other birds of note in our neighborhood. That pretty much concluded my pack of tricks, though, so I resumed my walk as the mom thanked me for the nature tips.

I smiled to myself as I crossed the swinging bridge, as I wondered who this famiy saw. A neighborhood orthnologist--this 50ish woman with her hair in a ponytail, cutoff sweats and a t-shirt? It reminded me of how happy I was when I realized, as Dan and I dragged our kayaks down to the Yellow Breeches for another Sunday afternoon jaunt, that we were "kayakers." Not just people who owned kayaks, but people who enjoyed using them. Like weekly outings to the farmer's markets in Costa Rica or frequent visits to the National Zoo when we lived in Maryland, living on the Yellow Breeches is making me into a person I like to be with.