It is a kind of sacred shudder to feel the abyss of the trancendental opening up before one's feet.
For several years my recreation was the metaphysical,.experience of hiking in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire. I say it was metaphysical because I soon found the many metaphors that abounded when I was in the presence of untamed nature.
I do not remember all the many hours I spent or the countless thousands of steps I took over the roots and rocks of those trails. Those steps, like the sausage grinder of my own mental works, were there to take me to a destination, not necessarily the destination those who laid out the trail had in their own grinders.
There were meadows with foliage so overgrown it was difficult to see the long trail that went through them. There were tiring ascents through relentless forests. There were steep and dangerous cliffs where it was almost impossible to find a foot hold. There was a lake with leeches in which no one should want to swim. I do remember those places.
But there are other memories. I remember suddenly coming upon something that was strikingly beautiful. There was the Swift River with the waterfalls upstream of it. I remember an unexpected clearing on the Mount Cranmore trail in which, though surrounded with trees, nothing was growing but grass. I wondered what was underground and invisible that prevented other growth. I remember the view from the edge of the cliff atop Boulder Loop Trail and the tree growing bravely from the face of that cliff. I remember the Lake Of The Clouds on the way up Mount Washington.
I remember the summit of South Moat Mountain that was so comfortable I didn't want to leave it. And I remember the creatures,the grouse, the toad, the beaver, the wild turkey, the pheasant, the moose tracks and the eyes of the forest beings suddenly appearing in the light of my match on the other side of the brook I was about to ford at night.
Many people who visit those trails are not there for the same reason I was. Those who are out for exercise, those who come to see the magnificent autumn foliage, the mad hunters from the "flat lands" will miss most of the beauties, lessons and metaphors of the forest. But those mysteries are the reason I went out, rain or shine, from June to November whenever I could to find what Nature could teach me.
One of the first lessons I learned was that, even though many of those grand metaphors were designed and put in place many thousands or millions of years ago, Nature doesn't care whether we see them or not. It is Nature talking to itself. Nature doesn't care about our tedious committee meetings, our over crowded schools, our struggles to understand the world we live in or our vain attempts to improve it, our wars and our bickering governments, our aspirations, our foolishness, the lurking evils in the hearts and minds of the subhuman members of our race. Wild Nature doesn't' care if we try to wrap things up in nice neat bundles. Nature doesn't even care there are trails through it's world. Even though we are creations of Nature itself it rarely looks back at us to see what we're doing. If we cut down one of Natures's trees, it grows another one. That's the first great lesson. Having learned that one I was ready to learn the rest, and it was for those transcendent experiences that kept me going back to the forest.
I was being taken by the wild woods into a place where the stream of ideas, which would occasionally reveal themselves in a momentary flash of recognizable thought but were otherwise coming at me so rapidly it was impassable for my meat grinder of a mind to comprehend them. I wanted to jump in and let all the primordial wisdom wash over me, shudder me and cleans me of all confusion.
DB - The Vagabond
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