Tag Archive 'time'

Aug 27 2017

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The Promise of Another Day

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Morning sun breaks through the trees – the promise of another day. Forget the madness of civilization on full display throughout the media, and focus instead upon here and now. A calm, clear, azure sky. And you are alive. Cherish it. Your days will not go on forever. So whatever your troubles, however distressing the human condition may seem, there is this day. And you are alive.

It’s hard to believe that Nature has no agenda, that all this living and dying all around us isn’t to some good purpose. The sun burns brightly, suggesting divinity. Or am I just imagining it? Each and every one of us walks the fine line between reality and illusion. Only the truly mad amongst us think that they are completely sane.

The sun, moon and stars move across the sky, marking time. Together they hint at something eternal – something that we call the universe. But that’s of no consequence to us really. Our days are numbered. From the first hominid to the last there are only so many days. So we should make good use of them. What then should we do? More to the point, what should I do today?

The promise of another day. Each and every day is fraught with possibility. Perhaps I will do today what I couldn’t do yesterday. Perhaps the passage of time is all that’s needed to beat the long odds and accomplish something truly remarkable. Perhaps today I will truly understand the world and my place in it. Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

 

 

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Oct 06 2015

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That Time of Year

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RT fall foliageSeems like the autumnal color is a week or two late, and not nearly as vibrant as it has been in the past. Chalk that up to a run of hot days in September, I suppose. But that doesn’t change the fact that the leaves turning is as inevitable as the days getting shorter. It is, after all, that time of year.

Taking a break from work at midday to walk my dog Matika and stretch my legs, I meander along the Rail Trail for a while. The contrast between remnant summer-like green leaves and the gold, burnt orange, and rusty ones gets my attention, emptying my mind of business matters – at least temporarily. Time marches along, as the seasons attest. We are wise not to ignore it.

A caterpillar labors in front of me. Squirrels race across the trail, gathering their winter foodstuffs. The other day I saw a telltale V of geese leaving Canada. No hard frost yet, but a thin coating of it covered the top of my car a couple days ago. Yeah, we’re getting there.

On the Rail Trail, a young woman breezing past on a bicycle notices me taking a picture of the colorful foliage overhead. “Finally!” she says gleefully, “Getting rid of the green!” I don’t share her enthusiasm. The warm season is never long enough for me.

In a month or two, I’ll be missing the color of vegetative growth. Then again, seasonal change is nice. I wouldn’t want to live in Florida. I just wish it didn’t all happen so quickly. It’s hard keeping up.

 

  

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Dec 02 2013

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Time and Change

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December brookNow it is December. My dog Matika and I walk the Rail Trail early in the morning, leaving tracks in fresh snow beneath a dull sun. Seems like I was doing this not long ago, but the snow geese urgently heading south make it clear that nearly a whole year has passed since I last saw the sun this low in the sky. This passage of time makes me shudder. As I grow older, the years seem to slip by faster.

The trail crosses a small brook partially iced over. In due time, this brook will be completely covered with snow and ice. And yet it will still flow – a muffled trickle reminding anyone who pays attention that the passage of time is relative. Compared to my dog, I live a long life. Compared to this brook, my existence is only the blink of an eye.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that we can never step in the same river twice. While squatting along the edge of the brook, I ponder this. The stream before me rushes incessantly, never pausing. I constantly change, as well, in much more subtle ways. So does everything around me. The whole world is in flux –  the entire universe for that matter. Nothing stands absolutely still.

I continue walking the trail, following a set of tracks laid by someone else a day or two before. When the trail clears the trees and enters a field, I notice that a snowdrift has obscured those tracks. In due time, the boot prints that I press into the snow will also fill in or blow away. Then there will be only my memory of having been here.

These are the reflections of an old thinker, of course. The young live in the present, as do the thoughtless. As I walk the trail, countless others prepare for the holidays, feeling the press of time in a different way. For them, December 25th is all that matters, and the rituals surrounding that day seem eternal. Nature reminds us that they aren’t, of course. Ah, well… I’d better start my Christmas shopping soon, anyway.

 

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Oct 04 2013

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Autumnal Reverie

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InBkRes OctoberOn a perfect day in early October, it seemed a crime to stay indoors. After running errands in Burlington yesterday, I drove out to Indian Brook Reservoir for a midday walk. I had my dog, Matika with me, of course.

I didn’t realize how tightly wound I was until I put a half mile of trail behind me. By then the dryleaf smell of the woods, the incessant, high-pitched trill of crickets, and the multicolored foliage had worked their magic. My nerves unraveled.

As I walked around the far end of the reservoir, I started daydreaming. Or was it just my overactive mind sorting things out and settling down? Whatever. The result was the same. By the time I had passed the beaver ponds and was heading back towards the parking lot, I felt strangely calm. Didn’t even mind the many people and dogs encountered along the way.

I often write about the healing power of deep woods and the perspective gained by sustained exposure to the wild, but one doesn’t have to go to such great lengths to benefit from nature. Sometimes an hour walk in a park on the edge of town will do.

Time obsession is the great plague of our culture. We scramble to make the most of our time. We multi-task. We cram our days full of activities. There is never enough time. And when finally we do relax, we usually do so with some intoxicant and/or electronic media. But it is never quite enough. Only fresh air and a little sweat does the trick, really. Amazing how easy it is to forget that.

 

 

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Jul 12 2010

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These Summer Days

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Nothing symbolizes these summer days in Vermont better than day lilies.  They are big, bright, cheery flowers, no less beautiful for being commonplace.  They grow all over the place this time of year: in front of humble homes like mine, along roads and lanes, in uncut fields with daisies, black-eyed Susans and other wildflowers, and in carefully cultivated gardens.  This morning, while walking a logging road, I even saw a patch of them in a clearing deep in the woods.  Yeah, this time of year, they seem to be everywhere.

Wild or domestic, good soil or poor, they are herbal phalanxes that shout vitality.  They are equal to any insult or injury, as anyone who has dug up their complex network of roots and rhizomes will attest.  So bring on the heat waves, bugs, droughts, torrential downpours, or anything else that summer can throw at them.  They are ready.  They are strong.

But day lilies do not last forever.  While this tight knot of plants may bloom a month or more, each individual flower lasts only a day.  Hence the name.  The bud opens in early morning, shouts floral joy into world all day long, then withers at dusk.  Surely some of them must bloom two days or longer, but I haven’t seen it.  I don’t despair, though.  There are still plenty more buds to open.  There are still plenty more days.

Yeah, day lilies are physical manifestations of the summer season that launch themselves into the world around the Summer Solstice, and then gradually fade with the gradual shortening of daylight.  Like summer heat, they seem relentless, overbearing, unending. . . but their days pass much sooner than we expect.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll sign off now.  The day lilies are marking time, and there is still so much I want to do this summer.

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Jun 07 2010

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Walking the Beach

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Judy and I took our annual trip to the Maine coast last week.  Per usual, we rented a cottage overlooking a salt marsh.  The view out the cottage window is very comfortable for a woodsy guy like me – all wetland and forest.  But there comes a time when it’s best to crawl out of one’s comfort zone and see the world in a different way.  So early one morning I hiked the half mile access road to Goose Rocks Beach then walked along water’s edge, taking it all in.

On a misty, gray-sky day, the ocean horizon is indistinct, suggesting infinity.  Waves break towards shore, wearing down all conventional notions of time.  I walked the beach, all too aware that my boot prints would soon wash away.  Impermanence.  Only the ocean itself remains fixed in place – a vast body of water stretching beyond imagination.  And yet it too is constantly moving, constantly changing it’s mood.

The beach is covered with oceanic debris.  Long rows of aquatic vegetation mark the tide’s high water line.  And mixed into it shells, fragments of shells, the body parts of crabs and lobsters, and countless other organics in various stages of decay.  Much like the forest, the shoreline reeks of decay – repulsive to my landlubber nose at first, then oddly sweet and inviting as I recall from whence I came.  The ocean is the wellspring of all life on this planet.  Nowhere is that more apparent than on the beach when the tide is going out.

Sandpipers and plovers fed along the shoreline.  Sand fleas cued them to the most scrumptious morsels.  I skirted a tidal pool that seemed like a buffet to some of the shorebirds.  A gull carried off something.  Just off shore, ducks and eiders dove for breakfast.  Much like the forest, the shoreline ecology is all about food.

Funny how my gaze always starts on the horizon and ends up in the sand at my feet.  I looked for things of interest among the shoreline deposits without knowing how such things are valued.  I found a sand dollar, picked it up, then found another, then another.  The currency of the ocean wild.  My wife values them, anyhow.  So does my granddaughter.  I picked up a particularly interesting shell and stuffed it in my pocket.  I’m not sure why.  What the ocean coughs up is hard to resist.

The waves continued breaking in my head as I hiked back towards the cottage, away from shore.  Even now, days later, I can still hear it.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see the foamy edge of the sea washing over the sand, leaving fresh deposits there.  Nature’s watery hand is never still.  What am I to make of this?  Perhaps it’s best if I make nothing of it at all.  Tabula rasa.  Each new wave wipes the slate clean.

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Jun 15 2009

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The Passage of Time

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Last week I hiked up Bamforth Ridge.  Stretching six miles from the Winooski River to the top of Camel’s Hump, this ridge is the longest, hardest base-to-summit climb in Vermont.  I figured it would be a good place to train for my upcoming Maine trek – a good place to test my limits, that is.  On that count I wasn’t disappointed.

I puffed halfway up the ridge before the hike became difficult.  Then I pushed myself another mile uphill, overcoming gravity by sheer force of will until reaching an exposed knob with a nearly 360-degree view.  Good enough.  I broke for lunch with the summit still looming large in front of me.  Then I turned back.

Going uphill was relatively easy – just a matter of will.  Going downhill was another matter.  Knees don’t lie.  With each step they reminded me that my strongest hiking days have passed.  A walking stick helped, but there’s no getting around the physical reality of a half century of wear and tear, as much as a forever-young Baby Boomer like me wants to deny it.

Yesterday I finished reading a book by Lester Brown called Eco-Economy.  It’s a rehash of his somewhat Malthusian notions concerning the limits of growth – concepts that I first encountered back in college in the 70s.  Industrialization and population are outpacing food production and other natural resources.  No big news there.  But what bothered me is just how little progress we’ve made during the past thirty-odd years.  Well into the 21st Century now, we’re still having the same eco-arguments.  Meanwhile, the math worsens and collective human misery keeps rising.  Being that I belong to the sixth of humanity that’s on top of the heap, I probably shouldn’t worry about it.  But I do.

My grandson, Mason, came to me the other day wearing a green bush hat and said with a great big smile:  “I’m just like you, Grandpa!”  I nodded my head, acknowledging that he is.  Mason loves being outdoors.  When he was three, he cried when his Mommy made him go back inside.  At five, he’s ready to plunge deep into the woods, to take on the world.  Soon he’ll be on the trail with me.

I still have work to do.  I don’t know how but somehow I have to help break the deadlock that exists in human affairs.  Old arguments, polarized stances and antiquated worldviews must be abandoned in favor of something that actually works – something that will make the world a better place for all the Masons out there.  The time has come to be pragmatic, meet enemies halfway, and get things done.  Thirty years of the same old eco-arguments, for chrissakes.  Talk is cheap.

Bamforth Ridge kicked my ass, but I’m ready to do it all over again.  I’m ready for another big hike.  I’m still moving despite the passage of time.  Hard to say whether my kind and I will ever get anywhere, but we’re moving all the same.  No sense stopping.  And when we’re done, Mason and his generation will carry on.  Why shouldn’t they?  Time passes, but it’s never too late to take on the world.

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Nov 17 2008

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View from the Hill

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Midday.  Matika and I stretch our legs.  There’s a light flurry of snow falling, which is probably why we have the hill all to ourselves today.  The forest is mostly shades of brown and gray.  Matika cavorts about the open woods, looking for a chipmunk or squirrel to terrorize.  She occasionally finds one rummaging about the leaves.  I ignore her for the most part as I amble up the trail.

Halfway up the hill, I detour to the lookout for a quick view of St. Albans.  The town sprawls before me like a model railroad layout.  The collective hum of cars coming and going contradicts the stillness of the greater panorama.  Beyond the edge of town, farm fields and woodlots stretch to Lake Champlain and its islands.  Beyond the lake, mountains rise into low clouds.  A squall to the west blocks the northernmost edge of the Adirondacks from view.  The cold wind brings tears to my eyes.  I turn away from the lookout and slip deeper into the woods.

While climbing the last rise to the summit, I wonder how many more times I’ll hike this hill before I tire of it.  There’s no way to know, of course.  There’s only this eternal present.  Deep in it now, I realize that I come here more for a sense of perspective than anything else – a quick fix of the wild when I haven’t the time or inclination to drive an hour or so to the mountains.  A week, a day, or only an hour in the woods, I take what I can get.

I cross over the summit ridge, then catch the view eastward from the nearby ski slope.  More cars race along the interstate below.  I turn away, deliberately cutting my pace to make the downhill half of the hike last as long as possible.  I have work to do but am in no big hurry to get back to it.  Matika chases a squirrel up a tree.  I call her back to my side.

On the way back to the car, I pass the remnant of an old, dead tree still protruding twenty feet into the air.  I’ve been passing it for years and can’t help but wonder when it’ll come down.  Someday it’ll drop.  It’s just a matter of time.  Chances are good that I won’t be walking past it when it does, yet fallen trees litter the forest floor.

It seems like everything is a function of time and scale.   “Time is cheap and rather insignificant,” Thoreau once wrote in his journals, “It matters not whether it is a river which changes from side to side in a geological period or an eel that wriggles past in an instant.”  A walk in the woods, even a short one like this, drives this point home.

The roof of my house is visible from the lookout on the hill.  So is the cluster of buildings downtown where I run my errands.  The better part of my life is visible from up there, though I rarely think about it as I go about my daily affairs.  Someday I’m going to sit up there and ponder things for hours on end, or so I keep telling myself.  But I can never sit at that lookout more than twenty minutes before growing restless, thinking about all the things I should be doing.  That, I find, is the essential paradox of a good view.

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