|Arizona Trail (AZT) near Flagstaff|
My family and I spent a few hours in this place, not hiking, which sounded hard and repetitious, but rather nature exploring, which allowed us to move without a set destination or goal, other than stopping as often as possible to ferret out wild flowers, gently lift logs in search of interesting fungi, and following paw prints into the woods to see if they connected with legs, or other evidence of passages--tree scrapings, dirt scratchings, food raiding, scat making, night bedding, all of these we found signs of, just by looking a bit. It rained on us, gently at first, then more insistent, peppered with hail, and turning the trail into a muddy imprint recorder in which we left our own sign: family of four, meandering in the woods, doubling back and venturing into some insignificant corners for no apparent reason, with possible indication of tentative snare-making practice, or perhaps knot tying, or just cloud gazing. We spent a few hours then hurried on to the next thing, the next planned destination, an inside place, constructed and enclosed, without mud or signs of wild animals. I wonder what our hurry was. I question our planning, our thoughts, our rushed exit from here: why not linger longer? Why not keep on the same program for days, poking under rocks, wandering along the AZT, seeing what's there, feeding wonder with wonder, to each other. Did you see that? Should we follow? Why not?
Something drove us onwards and away. A habit, I think, of throwing mental darts at ways to fill up our days, then clinging to the targets which they happen to strike as "plans" which we then execute, fairly robotically if I am honest, not asking our hearts what they would prefer to do with the next hours (wander in the woods and up and around the mountains and perhaps up to the snows and then back down for some splashing in the streams), but instead expending the designated hours on the designated tasks, following through if you will, but in so doing pushing down a little more of what the heart wanted, making it subservient to schedules and destinations, beginnings, routes, endings.
It was a great afternoon, but I have a regret. I regret that there was not splashing in streams and hiking up to find the snow, that we didn't let the nature exploration explore itself farther, ourselves, inwards and outwards, a continuation of the destination-free, schedule-free we moved for some hours, anyway. We quit fresh on a trail and in a place that wanted for us to give much more to it, until our legs burned, our lungs were spent, and our minds sated on a thousand and one unstructured images of trees and paw prints and plants and things. It was good, but it wasn't enough, because we let the schedule be the schedule too much. These brief moments were too driven by what was outside of them. Push away, outside, push away. Next time, before we start: a meditation on trees, and mud, and outside places, in and for themselves, and as long as they need. As long as it needs.