There are many ways of being in the woods. Today I thought about two different ways of interacting, of seeing, of exploring the outdoor reality.
One: you approach the outdoors with focus. You’re taking photos and looking for that perfect shot. You’re hunting for mushrooms. You’re searching for wild leeks. You’re picking wild blueberries. You have a purpose and you know what it is.
There is value in focus. We see the little details, even the tiniest of ladybugs lounging on the lawn chair of her branch. We peer in close at the newly sprouting green buds. We often look with a purpose (“Now where’s that wintergreen? C’mon, where are those morel mushrooms? Where are the feathers near that nest?”) You can even lose a sense of time while wandering in this focused world. It’s a great world.
Sometimes, however, I get tired of focusing. Don’t you?
Then there’s another way of being. One simply is. Instead of planning or focusing, one walks without intention, without design, without aiming for a result. One wanders for the sake of wandering. What a lovely expansive huge world opens up when we’re not seeking an outcome. We’re just letting our feet guide the next step. And the next. We’re not actively looking; we’re allowing the world to come to us.
I love that kind of expansive world, too. You can always tell when it’s time to switch from the focused seeing to the expansive seeing. You suddenly feel head-achy, or uncomfortable, or somehow incomplete. Then it’s time to quit looking and maybe just sit on the forest floor and watch the tree branches sway, if that’s what happens. Instead of directing the show, let the forest guide you.
Or, sometimes, a partridge bursts out in front of you in a flap of wings and indignation. That’s often enough to wake us up out of our focused reverie.
Today I was feeling a bit too focused, taking photo after photo, eyes always searching for the next strange and beautiful shot. After awhile, it just felt wrong. It felt like I was missing the forest for the trees. Or some such analogy. It reminded me of certain morel mushroom hunting expeditions where you spend the entire hunt with your eyes focused on the ground. By the time you get home you wonder…what kind of day was it? was the sun shining? were there clouds? what about the apple blossoms? But you don’t remember, because the morels held you enraptured the entire time.
Speaking of mushrooms, I was reclining against a stone under the oak tree (after realizing it was time to turn off the focus-mode for awhile) and stood up finally to walk right by the first beefsteak mushroom of the spring. You know what it means to find a beefsteak, right? It means the tasty morels will be soon heralding their arrival. YES! However, this year I am determined to notice the sky as well as the mushrooms. Assuming we have a good mushroom season this year. Last year’s harvest was awful around here. Although people across the bay found lots. Maybe I need a new special place to pick…