To anyone who shares my love of walking in nature, you will be familiar with the sense of grounding and experience hints of the wisdom that seems to have mastered hiding in plain sight. I regularly walk alone, exploring woods, moorlands and the coast and no matter how many times I return to favourite places, my experience is never the same. The land is alive and forever transforming and adapting to meet challenge and change. We live on an astonishing beautifully intricate planet, although, a growingly fragile one. We must love and nurture with gratitude the magnificence and magic of this incredible Earth. After all, it is its force that gave us the miracle of being and sustains out greatest needs, despite the disproportionate impact humans are having on the natural world.
Nature seems to be my greatest teacher. Nature, particularly when alone with it, unlocks an inner me, a hidden me, that feels released from the weight of ‘regular’ existence, perhaps some would describe it as being outside the matrix. I prefer to think of it as walking with presence. I have spoken before about how I believe that in some way all things are connected, the same energy flows between everything. When I walk, I lose the influence of the mundane world. I perceive the surroundings through my senses and not with my thoughts. Humbled by this incredible living creation that I can experience and filled with an intense sense of belonging that transcends time. In these moments, all that matters – is.
Science is beginning to measure and recognise the effects nature has on the state of our bodies and minds. Nature’s superpower in our relationship is that it secretly heals us without us even needing to be aware of its force. Its ability to work on us so deeply and unconsciously, for me, is evidence of our innate connection with it. Being conscious of that connection opens a whole new way to experience its wonders.
In this blog through pictures of a recent walk and observations noticed, I shall try to illustrate just what I mean by walking with presence.
On my way to Hart Tor, I divert my route along a river, crossing to follow an adjoining brook. Whilst last year my walks were aimed at reaching high points, like tors, where I could see far into the distance. It is only now that I consider these walks showed me to climb above the struggle and see the bigger picture. A pull towards water this year, perhaps suggests that it is time to learn to flow and be fluid.
I consider the contradictions in the nature of water, from a powerful force capable of destruction to a tranquil trickle emanating peace. Flowing water transports substances, nurturing the land, enabling plants to grow, animals to drink, to wash, to cool off, to make home in. Our senses seem to recognise the effulgence of water, we can attune to its sound and vibrations, catch our breath at its sight, and be enveloped by it on contact. Flowing water is essential to our Earth in more ways than this and we should not take for granted that we would not be here without it.
From this point my destination look straight forward, simply follow the path. This is certainly how it commenced; however, the following image shows the narrowness of the track in between the longer than anticipated grass.
To add to the matters, with every few steps I heard a creature ‘slithering’ away at my disturbance. In the UK we only have one type of venomous snake, but I could not deny the fears running through my mind – I do not want to get bitten out here on my own. The increase of adrenaline sharpened my senses and added energy to my muscles. This is a useful response out here. I know only too well how this is a problematic state in mundane reality. Reaffirming my belief that modern living is not conducive to human be-ing.
I saw a common lizard shimmy away in the grass and was relieved to not have to navigate my path around a snake.
Approaching South Hessary Tor, my destination and the view looking back to where this journey had begun.
In my day to day life, I am not always comfortable with change. When I walk, the sense of freedom allows me to adapt my plans, with a feeling of intrigue or purpose. I sat on this tor and came to the decision that I was not going to return by the same route, I did not want to walk through the long grass again. I had options. I reject the route by the gravel path then along the main road and cars. I synchronized my map and my vision of the land and concurred that I could follow the hill tops until I joined the route of a previous walk, tracking back to Hart Tor and Black Tor and my car.
I encountered some protective cows with very new calves.
You could feel the alertness of the new mothers, and the heard as a whole. I did not need adrenaline from the threat I could be charged this time. My instinct now was to slow my breathing, my movement and to slightly bow my head. In response the mum and calf blocking my path gradually moved aside a couple metres and I was able to pass giving them the space and calm to maintain their ground.
I gave birth in a hospital, with assistance from a nurse and midwife. These cows are farmed, so I am sure get checked, but my heart filled with respect and awe as I consider whether in labour they feel as remote as the landscape or whether nature and its magic have a way of providing comfort and assurance? I am inspired at the recognition of their resilience and bravery.
I tracked through marshy land, over two water ways and arrived back at Hart Tor in time to pause in the sun. To snack, drink, remove my soggy socks and watch the clouds holding the rain later forecast to reach this land, approach from the distance. I chuckled at the strange looking fly who seemed to find my drying socks irresistible.
The vastness of this land is humbling. The feeling of insignificance is comforting. This combined with a feeling of complete purposeful belonging, exceeds definition and creates the most amazing sensations in my being.
For me nature is a place where science and spirituality rejoice in the same miracles. I see nature as an expression of a divine creative force, that for the purpose of this explanation, I am going to refer to as God. When I am rooted in my deep self, alive with each passing moment, free of assumptions and receptive to what is, I feel that the boundaries of where my identity end and becomes something else, gets blurred or perhaps merges. I feel with God, in God and of God all at the same time. I have an awareness that there is so much more happening that I am not yet able to experience; that is still hidden in plain sight. Yet there is excitement in the certainty that whatever ideas of God we hold, some thing beyond explanation or description exists and we are very much part of it.
As I wrote this blog these lines from the poem ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way’ by William Cowper (1774) came to me, so it seems right to finish with them:
"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;"
For the full poem go to: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/God_Moves_in_a_Mysterious_Way/