Hiked into a nearby forest/ reservation today. It’s been a minute since I last went in.
The whole area, for those who aren’t familiar, is quite massive, and also quite odd in that it’s not all one big continuous space. One part is controlled by the city, and other parts are owned by the state but one agency controls one part and an entirely different combination of letters oversees another. There are miles and miles of trails in there, and while I’ve explored a lot of it, I’ll probably never hike all of them.
Last summer I was in here almost every day (unless I went hiking elsewhere) and there were days where I was hiking 7, 8, even 10 miles at once. Today, as has been the case for quite a while…only a little over 3 miles and I’m exhausted and in pain. These days the most I can do walking/ hiking is about 3–4 miles and I need at least a day in between.
Fuck you, COVID.
I noticed something else happening today as I was in there today, and I’ve never experienced this before hiking, ever.
For those who don’t know me, the woods are literally my church. The place where I can let go of my stress, anxiety, depression, whatever and where I can connect to what for me is universal source-God, spirit, north star, whatever works for you is A-OK. I can’t really get that connection other than in nature, so it’s sacred to me.
Today, I went to offload because I really needed it. I’m feeling like I know things are changing in a big way, and I need to take some leaps that bring me back to who I wanted to become when I started this adventure. I have no bloody clue how this is supposed to work and it’s terrifying because I can see the ending, but I can’t see what the road to get there looks like. It’s late, the road isn’t lit, and the headlights just crapped the bed. I needed to release and reset.
For the first time, it felt like nature couldn’t take it from me. Instead, it was as though it carried its own pain that it was trying to offload. Instead of release, I could feel the additional stress push onto my neck and back. It felt awful, but I could also find the space to empathize with it.
As I was exploring, I realized the place I was exploring looked nothing like my refuge from last summer. The leaves and pine needles that fell off the trees last fall had not composted themselves as they usually do. Where there was an abundance of mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors last summer…There were absolutely none to be found. The thin, hair-like, mycorrhizal networks (that I learned about watching Fantastic Fungi) resembling a street map of downtown Boston that were so plentiful and not all undergrounds were nowhere to be seen, replaced by occasional spiderwebs.
It was so dry in there and I had the sense that if the right idiot flicked a cigarette butt the right way that it would be a really dreadful day in there. Which is the consequence of a pretty hefty drought in the area this summer. It is most likely not (unlike a number of other events) an experience that makes you think “goddamn climate change”; it’s known to happen around here from time to time. Still, it makes for a much different space.
I couldn’t tell you if that was related to what I was feeling or if something else was screaming out in there though.
I ended up on one trail where I’ve probably explored a number of times but this time I didn’t recognize it. I had no phone service (I didn’t think to screenshot the trail map beforehand like I usually do) to connect to GPS so I had to trust my inner compass which usually is spot on. I worked my way back to the main trail, and along the way I crossed what appeared to be a new bridge over where a brook flows when there isn’t a drought. In the dry brook bed was a cool painted rock with a goldfish. Felt like a cool offering to one of the altars where I was headed, so I grabbed it.
As I made my way toward it, I could really tap into the stress and sadness that seemed to permeate the woods. It felt really sad to experience. It was really hard to be in that space in a world that has grown to become a solace. And yet, here I was.
Out of nowhere I could hear some of the music that was in the recently released teaser trailer for the movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which comes out in the fall. From part of Tems’ cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” that was used in the first part of the trailer, which kept repeating:
“Everything’s gonna be all right, everything’s gonna be all right”
I found myself singing it out, softly but out loud, and I just felt like I needed to keep it going for a while, over and over. Everything’s gonna be all right.
As I made my goldfish rock offering to the altar. Everything’s gonna be all right.
As I explored this area a little bit further. Everything’s gonna be all right.
As I turned around to make my way back. Everything’s gonna be all right.
Maybe nature’s finally sick of carrying my crap, or maybe it’s feeling the same overwhelming feels many of us are about how the world is appearing and behaving. Or maybe the woods possess their own unique grief or struggle. I don’t know, and I guess it’s not my place to know.
Maybe it was just my day to hold space for that which has done so much of the same for me. That gets to be okay.
Everything’s gonna be all right.
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