Tag Archive 'woods wandering'

Nov 12 2021

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Ridiculously Philosophical

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Last week I finished writing a ridiculously philosophical work, Nature and the Absolute. Don’t expect to see this book in print anytime soon. I like to give my books time to ferment before giving them the final edit then publishing them. But the heavy lifting is done for all practical purposes. This project has kept me quite busy during the past year and a half. And yes, it is ridiculously philosophical, which is to say I’ve gone as deep into metaphysical matters as it’s possible to go.

After finishing this book I went into the mountains, bushwhacking to a favorite place that will remain unnamed. Upon reaching that place, I put forth to the surrounding trees my reasons for writing such a ridiculously philosophical work. The trees, of course, were unimpressed. They are too busy being trees in engage in the kind of abstract thinking that creatures like me feel the need to do. But it felt good to voice my reasons for all nature to hear. Nature is, after all, what my latest, most ridiculously philosophical work is all about. Nature in the absolute sense of the word, that is. Nature spelled with a capital “N.”

For most of my life, I have shouted the question “Why?” into the universe, trying to understand What-Is. I have wandered and wondered and written over twenty books in my long and winding journey towards understanding natural order. I have read thousands of books and have pondered essence and existence to the point of absurdity. In the final analysis, when it comes to knowing the mind of God (which is what it all boils down to), all I can say it this: I don’t know. And that, I believe, is the most honest thing that I or any other thinking creature can say.

Oh sure, I have my wild speculations about What-Is and harbor all kinds of strong opinions about this, that, and everything else. But my admission of unknowing seemed to resonate with the surrounding trees, the roaring brook, the deep blue sky overhead, and all the rest of the natural world. I say this because, as a woods wanderer, my unknowing matches The Great Mystery that is nature. So stay tuned for the eventual release of my deepest probe into this matter. Then you’ll see for yourself just how ridiculously philosophical this book and my worldview really are.

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Jan 27 2017

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The Forest Makes Sense

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Coaxed by my canine companion, I head for the woods in the middle of the day to tramp around for an hour or so. I’m in dire need of it. I work too much, think too much, and pay too close attention to breaking news. The madness of civilization is closing in on me. I need a time out. And the forest always makes sense.

Snow crunches underfoot. A crow calls in the distance. The chilling air and woody silence draws me out of my head and into the here/now. I lay a set of tracks towards nowhere, nowhere in particular. And that’s exactly where I need to be.

The Righteous spill blood in the name of God. Others think torture is a better way to go. Intelligent people tout the wonders of modern medicine that no one can afford. Fools build nuclear weapons when they can’t even feed themselves. The cagy build island fortresses to claim the sea as their own. The naive watch glaciers melt and break out the suntan lotion. Billionaires scramble for ways to make more money. The desperate seek refuge in deadly drugs. The fearful put up walls to keep strangers out, unaware that they are building their own prisons. Everyone acts surprised when computers are hacked and valuable information is stolen. A few devise excursions to other planets, as if that will solve everything. Meanwhile, motorists race to their deaths while more sedentary folk sit before televisions believing everything they see. And people say I’m crazy for hiking alone in the woods.

Snow crunches underfoot. After laying tracks for a while, the heaviness I felt earlier in the day begins to lift. I find woodpecker holes in a dead tree and start considering possibilities that I hadn’t considered before – the endless possibilities of the wild. The forest makes sense. Nature makes sense. And my dog is happier sniffing around than I will ever be. That doesn’t seem right. I’m the sapient creature, aren’t I? Why can’t I be happy all the time? Why isn’t my kind happy all the time?

Returning home, I consider my options. Should I start my own holy war? Or should I ignore the world and seek solace elsewhere? I turn my computer back on instead. There’s work to be done.



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Aug 14 2015

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The Tug of Wildness

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Off TrailThis morning I had the presence of mind to step away from my computer and go for a little hike with my dog Matika. Glitches in online systems have been frustrating me lately, making me short-tempered.

I could say that the digital world, the realm of ones and zeros, is not my world, but that’s only half the story. The other half is that I’m trying to do too much in the short time remaining before my grandkids come to visit. At any rate, I headed for the nearest pocket of woods to collect myself.

While charging down the trail, grumbling about that which I do not control, I noticed the light breaking through the forest canopy, illuminating the understory. It was a green too vibrant to be real, or so it seemed. Next thing I knew, I felt the tug of wildness – a desire to leave the all-too-linear trail and just meander about the woods. I did just that. Then I settled down. Then I suddenly realized what is important and what is not. I called Matika to my side as I wandered around. Unlike me, with my head full of abstractions most of the time, she is always in the moment.

When I returned home, I found a message in my email inbox from a tech support guy, telling me that the system was experiencing “technical difficulties.” He hoped that they didn’t inconvenience me. I just shook my head and stepped away from the machine once again.

Technology is always difficult for those of us who would rather be immersed in wildness. My grandkids will be here soon. I look forward to spending as much time in the woods with them as possible. Then perhaps those technical difficulties won’t matter so much to me.



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Nov 09 2014

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In the Now

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FrHillNovA trace of snow on French Hill. My dog Matika and I tramp down the leaf-strewn trail. No sound except our shuffling through leaves.

Rifle shot in the distance. No matter. We’re wearing bright yellow and blaze orange. No one here but us… and a spooked partridge.

The sun plays peekaboo through the clouds overhead. Dried leaves still clinging to beech trees rattle in a slight breeze. Stick season: the world mostly brown and grey.

The air cold enough to justify the wool and thermal layers I’m wearing. I break a sweat while moving all the same.

Leaving the main trail, I follow the tracks of animals. It’s like this sometimes. Getting out of town isn’t enough. Sometimes I have to leave any semblance of human improvement behind in order to clear my head.

Glad I am not carrying a rifle. I take a few photos but even my camera is a distraction.  I put it away.

In due time I achieve no-mind – the goal of true woods wanderers everywhere. Not so much what I think as what I don’t think… until the forest and I are one, until I have nothing to say. The ancient Chinese wanderer Han Shan would approve.

I wander aimlessly. Oh yes, now I remember: the wild defines me.


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Sep 03 2014

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Wandering and Wondering

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town forestIt’s a warm, very humid morning and I’m as restless as my dog Matika. We need to stretch our legs. Have to do a shift at the store later on so I should stay close to home.  With that in mind, I head for a town forest only a ten-minute drive away.

The trail system in the town forest has been forgotten. Either that or no one has gotten around to improving it yet. Not that it matters. When I’m in the mood to wander, the slightest hint of a trail will do. Don’t even need that, really.

Having only been here one time before, I wander in circles. That’s how I get to know a place. I check my compass regularly to keep myself oriented. I visit the small pond twice and loop back to the parking lot three times before it’s clear just how small this town forest is. Fine by me. This is all I need today.

I wonder as I wander, allowing my train of thought to loop around and crisscross as the trail system does. This is how, as a thinker/writer, I orient myself. It’s September now and I’ll soon be returning to my literary work. Although it’s still technically summer for another three weeks, I’m feeling the tug of autumn.

I return to the car soaked in sweat then head back home to make plans for the months ahead. What’s the best use of my time? That’s the driving question. As I grow older, this puzzle becomes more difficult to solve. So much depends upon what one holds dear, and at my age the list is long.


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Oct 12 2013

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Revolutionary Ideas

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Saratoga Nat PkThe morning after doing a reading and book-signing event in Saratoga Springs, I drove over to Saratoga National Park. Thanks to the government shutdown, brought to us by those bumbling fools in Congress, the park was closed. That made it irresistible to me, unrepentant trespasser that I am.

I followed the Wilkinson Trail through the battlefield, kicking up heavy dew along the way. Crickets chirped incessantly. The sun rose steadily into a partly cloudy sky, illuminating the brilliant orange, gold and rust-colored foliage. Deer watched me intently from the edge of the trees. A woodpecker knocked in the distance. Otherwise all was quiet and still.

Upon reaching the Breymann Redoubt, a slight rise in the rolling landscape where a field gun stood, I felt the distinct presence of ghosts – of those who fought and died for ideas so revolutionary that they seem as impossible today as they did 236 years ago. Here the tide turned.

In a document written by those idealists a year earlier, they had claimed: “All men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And in October of 1777, on this knoll, they defeated an army of the most powerful nation on earth to make their point.

There are people living today who think it was all about taxes. Either they just don’t get it, or they’re too damned selfish to accept what “We the People” really means. As fiercely self-reliant as I may be as a woods wanderer, I know where my freedom comes from and how tenuous it is these days.

As I finished my walk, a park ranger came along and informed me that I had to leave. I gave him no trouble, not wanting to make his job any harder than it already was. I could tell from our brief exchange of words, though, that he was no happier than me about the recent turn of events in Washington. Clearly “We the People” are not being served well by our elected officials. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be sure.



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