Three stops in an automobile in a single day while out and about can be a soul-crushing experience for me. Two of these involved wandering up and down wide aisles among heavily processed and packaged foods. The dizzying array of inferior choices combined with the laziness of driving a 2,000 pound vehicle to get them (even though I have a very healthy pair of legs—you should see them some time!) produces atrophy to the whole person: body, mind, soul. I can honestly say that I experienced less exhaustion after biking 30 miles each way to the Food Farm last year and working for real food the old fashioned way. Though physically tiring, the endeavor was satisfying and in-filling. I arrived home feeling joyfully fulfilled in all aspects of life—mental,emotional, spiritual, and even physical—rather than today’s feeling of being spent.
Anyhow, on the way home I stopped off at the same river gorge we visited yesterday. Five minutes alongside the rushing creek, this time amidst trees blanketed in snow, had me feeling right as rain. The effect was more potent than alcohol, and more powerful than an anti-depressant. The joy of descending into the transformed gorge only a day later, as if some wizard had waved a magic wand, induced buoyant effervescence.
The experience causes me to consider just how satisfying it could be to mindfully and prayerfully walk the same small patch of wildness every single day, or perhaps every other day if that’s more realistic. Walk it in all seasons, weather, and conditions. Get down there —even if it’s only a vacant lot filled with briars and thistles—in freezing rain, during thunderstorms with gale-force winds, on crisp Fall days, and on lovely summer mornings at dawn before the dew has disappeared. Experience that same patch of land for an entire year in all conditions—even in the dark. Be observant and expectant. Make note of the first returning robin in spring, the rise of the first dandelion, appearance of various bugs and other creatures, and all things great and small. Such awareness produced while meandering through an unspectacular piece of land day after day (five minutes even) couldn’t help but affect us in lovely ways that could powerfully influence all of life. Perhaps we’ll develop a greater appreciation for all of God’s creatures. Maybe we’ll become more observant and thankful, while not focusing so much on ourselves. Might we even become better neighbors?