Quiet spring meditation in the woods

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It sometimes takes a long time–a truly long time–maybe even years, or decades, or a lifetime–for one to learn how to truly become quiet in the woods.

So quiet, so still, that there is no difference between you and the landscape, between you and nature.

Until you realize fully that you are nature itself in your stillness, in your activity, in your very essence.

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Of course, I have not yet learned this completely.  But the woods continue to teach me every time I open the door and walk outside.

Nature continually sings a quiet song that invites us all to sit upon the ground and to listen to something beyond the ever-yakking thoughts that skitter faster than two squirrels chasing each other up a spruce tree.

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Sit awhile, the earth says, and truly see.

There’s an entire world birthing in front of your two eyes and you’re missing so much.  I’ll teach you, if you want.

Just sit quietly.

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So I sit.  And, maybe, so do you.  We don’t talk.  We don’t make pretty conversation or entertain one another with hopes, desires and regrets.

Instead, we watch ants crawl, flies buzz, plants grow.  (Our minds may fuss for a while, insisting this is not fun.  Never you mind.  Just sit longer, not pushing the fussing away, but not indulging it either.)

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Breathe in the spring scent, the mold in rotting autumn leaves, the humus for a new season.

Breathe in damp earth and bare branches waving in a bright blue sky.

Breathe in the amazement that it’s spring and most of the snow has melted away!

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Look around nature to see what the eye might too easily dismiss as it looks for more excitement or entertainment.  It may want the raucous dance of mating woodpeckers (like you may have seen this morning, those two bright males dancing around a maple, showing off their stuff, trying to impress that nearby female) but nature itself is often less flashy, less a show-off.

See the way a woodpecker beat its beak against bark, munching on snacks of insects? What patterns!  How loudly the woods speaks in its silence at times.

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Notice a smooth rock resting against moss.  How did it get here?  From a child, twenty-five years ago, who dragged it into the forest from Lake Superior?  Does it matter?  Here it sits, speaking its silent stone-song, so quiet that it might take until next summer to decipher its rock-language.

Or you might understand it right now.

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Our tame chipmunk from last summer has not returned, but I am romancing this little fellow.  She (I have not ascertained sex, but am intuiting she’s a she) acts interested but remote.  The above and below photo were taken a few mornings ago, when the snow still littered the ground, before 70 degree (21 C)  temperatures caused some of us to swoon in delight and trek into the snow-less woods.

However–and this is entertaining news, just in!–after I sat patiently, oh so patiently, for minutes upon minutes, days upon days, I proffered a handful of seeds and the chipmunk nibbled them oh-so-daintly from this hand before scurrying away.

For those of you who’ve known me for many years–please note Grandma’s 1969 snowmobile suit in the next picture.  It still fits, just barely.  Last spring I finally found needle and thread and sewed her up nicely, the better to ensure the suit’s survival until 2019 and beyond.

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Enough of this noisy porch-talk. Back to the woods.

Even though the woods speak most clearly when thoughts seem quieter, it can be quite loud.

Down the road a chainsaw roars, perhaps clearing away downed branches from our heavy snowfalls.

Chickadees chirp.  Blue jays caw.  Ravens croak.  Deer crush dried leaves with their hooves, giving away secret locations, twitching whitetails as they look warily about.

And sometimes–the best sound of all–and I’ve only truly heard it a few times over the years–you can actually hear grass growing through the forest leaf clutter.

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It’s so delightful to become reacquainted with the woods in spring-time.  Why, wild flowers may be birthing any day now!

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If you have twenty minutes or two hours and know of a patch of dry earth outside your door, I invited you to sit quietly on an old log and listen. Don’t give up immediately. Give yourself time to relax, to breathe, to let everyday thoughts dissolve or lessen. It’s the sweetest kind of meditation.

Listen. There’s so much to learn in the silence of moss, tree, sky, slanting spring sunlight.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in April, 2016 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Quiet spring meditation in the woods

  1. Fountainpenmlk says:

    Oh, my! Kathy!
    I sit with my own quiet thoughts
    reflecting with your good words and lovely pictures…..

    thank you so much
    Fountainpen

  2. Barb says:

    I listen quietly in the forest in all seasons. Just now, the landscape is muffled by snow. The cross country skis sing their song, my breathing sounds intrusive in the quiet, and I’m aware of my heart beating a cadence that only my bones can hear. I’ve never heard the grass growing – perhaps I haven’t been still long enough. Twice, I’ve encountered a bear at close range – in those intense moments my senses sharpened to the point that my humaness and the bears’ bearness became one. I totally remember Grandma’s snowmobile suit – glad to see it is still going on forays into the woods.

    • Kathy says:

      It’s interesting how different the forest is in its many faces. I love how you described that muffled landscape. And–wow–about the bearness and humaness becoming one. What a gift.

  3. Barb Brock says:

    I Sooooo need to do this. It would be good for my soul..

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, it’s interesting how we often have to convince our mind. Sometimes I just have to start walking outside…because the thoughts have other things they would prefer doing.

  4. Brenda says:

    Kathy, I remember spending quiet times in the woods back when my knees worked good for hiking and walking. It always calmed my spirit and filled me with childlike wonder and gratitude. So now, while I am always stuck indoors with rotten knees, it is such a gift to sink into your words about precious moments in the north woods. Thank you for letting me join you this way because it brings joy and happy memories. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Kathy says:

      I am wondering if you have a small patch of grass outside your back door where you might sit on a cushion? One of my greatest lessons has been just that–find a patch of nature even in the city or suburbs–and resting upon it. Even surrounded by cars and people it reveals itself with enough patience. I am glad this brought you joy, Brenda.

      • Brenda says:

        Kathy, I can’t get out in the backyard anymore because of the rickety steps and no hand railing for me to hang onto. The only place I can go out to and spend some time is a teeny tiny porch in the front, constantly battered by wind blown dirt and gravel from the fairgrounds across the street. I do go out there sometimes and watch traffic drive by and listen to the birds singing in the bushes and trees near the house and watch the hummers enjoy my homemade juice for them. But it’s so hard for me to just sit there because all my life, I’ve used my outdoor time for active things like gardening, yard work, shoveling, hiking and walking. And now that I can’t do any of those things, it feels like I’m useless outside, looking at many things that need to be done and knowing I can’t do anything about them. So that makes me want to stay inside more often so I don’t have to see the messy yard, dirty porch, and the big side yard where I used to have a garden. These losses hurt but when I read about your experiences in the northwoods, it is like a healing balm to my aching heart. Thank you so much dear friend!! ❤

  5. Wrote as a true woods woman! I enjoyed my quiet time with you Kathy on these days in your neighbourhood where the snow has recently vanished! I took us on a walk under the Cherry blossoms in our Mayne Island Japanese Garden yesterday… A different kind of nature experience but delightful as well.

    • Kathy says:

      Cherry blossoms sounds so lovely, Terrill. I love that expansive feeling in spring when nature puts on her color show and tell, all rushing smells and smooth petals. Imagining you now on Mayne Island soaking up spring.

  6. Debbie M. says:

    Life abounds in the forest when we sit still and listen with all our senses!

    • Kathy says:

      It certainly does, Debbie. Your words made me think that I might want to get down low and breathe deep the earth and really smell all the spring smells in the soil.

  7. Shirley Khodja says:

    Reading this blog is as good as meditation- thank you so much 🙂

  8. debyemm says:

    I love the woods. I go out almost every day. After almost 30 years of it, I’ve not been bored with it for even a moment. Out in nature is where I feel most ? natural ? Can’t think of another way to say it. Your photos could have been taken here. Not much difference in the woods there in MI and the woods here in MO.

    • Kathy says:

      How very interesting, Deb, that our woods could be so similar. I love hiking in the Georgia woods behind my in-laws house, just to see the similarities and differences. There seems to be more growing plants twisting up and around trees (there is even more of that in lower Michigan.) Where the in-laws live was once part of a cotton plantation and now is a small-town street. Fascinating faces of nature.

  9. Kathy – I love your contemplative photographs and oh-so-soothing words, thank you.

    I’m currently “somewhat” near your neck of the woods… speaking at the Writers’ Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. Tomorrow we leave for Indianapolis for two days, then back to Boise.

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, I just checked. You were 311 miles south and west of us. We always would like to travel down to Madison, but it usually seems a bit far for a weekend trip. I’ll bet you had a wonderful time at the Writer’s Institute! Glad you enjoy this weekend meditation.

  10. john k. says:

    I got here tonight. I must. I must. I must. I must. I must. I must. Then I leave. Maybe between the “musts” I will find a half hour that I may sit in silence, I pray.

  11. Reblogged this on joannevalentinesimson and commented:
    This reminded me so much of my childhood in Michigan, I just wanted to reblog it on my site. Thanks, LSS.

  12. Loved reading about nature and your reflections about the forest and the creatures there.

    I don’t have a forest where I can sit but I have an acre here and I love to sit and or walk as I marvel at something that I have not seen in the past. Nature changes just as we do and honestly, I think nature is the prime teacher.

    • Kathy says:

      Yvonne, I think an acre is more than enough to meet the many faces of nature. Sometimes just a patch of grass can be enough. Or a mud puddle. Or the face of the starry Universe at night. Marveling with you…

  13. One of my favorite books is A Naturalist Buys and Old Farm, by Edwin Way Teale. Every day he and his wife would walk a path through their woods, one day one way on the path, the next day the reverse, observing the minute changes from one day to the next. I have always wanted a woods I could do that in.

    • Oops…should have proofed that. The book is A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm.

    • Kathy says:

      Esther, that book sounds fascinating! I contemplated writing a blog like that at one time. Walking slowly around the house in a large loop, documenting minute changes. In fact have sometimes just walked that loop once a day, very very slowly, enjoying the meditative feel of one foot, next foot, next foot, next. Thank you for the reading suggestion. P.S. Maybe you could even do this in a back yard, or in a neighborhood park.

  14. Francine Brady says:

    I live in a very old house, our land is a nature preserve,so there can be no more building.
    There is comfort in that. Nature will take it back one day. Always joy in seeing the deer, birds and trees.

    • Kathy says:

      Francine, that sounds like a lovely place to live. You are lucky to experience that. Last night in the middle of the night I saw white ghostly shapes in the yard. It took a long time to realize they were quietly grazing deer in the moonlight.

  15. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,

    That is certainly the way of it. even through there is a so called lake right out my front door and across the street, it’s a creek really, and it is surrounded by suburbia yet I can find myself lost in all of the nature and scurry of birds and squirrels, there are ducks and geese, now nesting, while the trees bloom and burst with flowers and brown green leaf buds or the red bronze of the maple, there are moments that it is just myself, nature and the camera. lost in the sense of it all. In the moment…

  16. Carol says:

    One of the gifts of spring arriving is, at last!, the opportunity to sit on my front deck and just let nature’s creatures and green beauty permeate my soul, the dreariness of a winter spent inside wafting away in the spring breeze. Yesterday, I saw a hummingbird at my feeder and would have done a happy dance, but that would have scared him away, so I sat, quietly, smiling inwardly.

    • Kathy says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Carol, about the dreariness of winter and how it feels when those spring breezes arise. How nice that you’ve seen a hummingbird! We usually get our first passersby around May 10th. Keep enjoying your deck and nature’s revelations…

  17. Kathy, It has been really great to read your blog again. So glad you’re back! You inspired me to return to my blog as well.

    • Kathy says:

      Patty, I am so glad to help inspire you and will go over and read soon hopefully. I have always enjoyed the recipes and wisdom you’ve shared. Hope life has been treating you well.

  18. I am trying, I am trying! Just as savasana is the most difficult pose for many in yoga (resting and thinking of nothing), just listening during a walk in the woods is quite a challenge. But, I’m trying. Your words inspire me.

    • Kathy says:

      I am smiling, I am smiling! I was talking with a friend the other day…so often we think we’ve failed or it’s too difficult because of all that thinking that never seems to end. But I think–ha ha–that the movement between listening and thinking is what is important. It’s the muscle-strengthening of silence which actually gets the most “results”. So don’t think you’re failing if you’re thinking. Just go back to the silence and notice gently that you’re building “muscle”.

  19. sybil says:

    Kathy, I need to go find a log and set myself down for a bit. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. Mary Rank says:

    Oh, how I wish I could be there with you. I stopped for a second to listen to the sounds of the great big city and heard nothing of nature. This morning Jeff Binkley sent me a sound recording of the noises in the small pond behind our Skanee camp. The frogs and toads were delightful. See you in late July!

    • Kathy says:

      Mary, I am thinking of you in Beijing, and then imagining you back in Skanee this summer. How cool that Jeff sent that video! I DO hope we’ll connect in July. It’s always so much fun to see you…as if no time has passed.

  21. lom says:

    I love to be still and at one with nature, but lately there just doesn’t seem to be time or the quiet spaces.

  22. christinelaennec says:

    What a lovely and inspiring post. It is hard work to sit still and listen, but even just in a living room it is possible to hear silence. I remember years ago being startled to hear a leaf unfurling on a house plant! I was thrilled to read that the chipmunk ate from your hand.

    • Kathy says:

      Christine, yes, you know! Even in a living room we can quiet our thoughts and hear the pulse of silence. And you HEARD a house plant unfurling–how many beings have heard that? I haven’t. You know, there has been a chipmunk under the feeder every day since one ate out of my hand, but it hasn’t been approachable since. We shall see how this unfolds as the spring and summer progresses…

  23. Carol Ferenc says:

    There is so much to learn from nature when we stop and observe.

  24. I Wilkerson says:

    What a lovely post. And perhaps I’ll try to tame our patio chipmunk this winter, now that you’ve given me some hints!

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Inger. Some chipmunks are totally adverse to being tamed. Others seem more inclined. And I am not sure which is the more healthy behavior for long-term survival! The one that ate out of my hand unexpectedly last weekend has either a) not returned or b) refuses to gamble on that maneuver again!

  25. Heather says:

    I never regret my time in the woods. Sometimes still, sometimes moving.
    I’m interested to see how your relationship with Chippy develops.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Heather! So far my new relationship with the new Chippy is, well, non-existent. Whatever Chippy is feeding beneath the bird feeder is now acting remote and chipmunk-like in his/her skittishness. Alas… (And I know you love the woods as much as I do!)

  26. Janet says:

    I loved this. Beautiful. Thank you.

  27. Reblogged this on Sherrie's Scriptorium and commented:
    Even if you can’t get out into the woods today, enjoy this meditation. You will feel like you did go outside thanks to this wonderful post and photos.

  28. walttriznastories says:

    The thoughts behind this piece would make a great poem. To include one or two of your pictures with the work would add power.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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