Bent Creek Trail, Asheville, N. Carolina
It was a day of kindness and compassion towards others and as I found along the way of my hike – myself. This week long self directed “retreat” was to be for leaving outside distractions behind and settling into a space of clearing and discovery.
Although the days have not been “planned” I had thought I would at least get a sense of what the New Year would hold for livelihood, explore my own creativity a bit, and commune with nature. What has unfolded thus far, and continues to, is a fall from the grace of knowing anything.
A feeling of being battered by the back lash of the pandemic. The divisiveness, fear, judgement, inconsistencies, profound loss and social unrest has taken its toll. A toll, the depth of which I was not completely aware of until I simply stopped perusing social media and my phones news feed, as well as withdrawing from the community I have created over the last 9 months of living in N. Carolina.
And so it was that I took myself out to the N.Carolina Arboretum to hike the trails and commune with nature. The joy and laughter that I was to write about each day alluded me. Feeling lonely and somehow disconnected I put on my backpack to hike the trail down to Bent Creek and started the walk to the trailhead.
Coming towards me was a man and as he got closer I saw a warning face. Out of his mouth came “be careful, there is a woman with crazy dogs up there” at which I inquired “Really?” as I heard the bark of dogs up above.
A huge smile then broke out on his face and I knew in that moment that he was spinning a story for our mutual benefit. When I reached the woman and dogs I told her that her husband just said to me to be aware of the woman with the crazy dogs and laughter with a short conversation broke out between us.
A moment of connection. A persuasion to lighten up myself.
Walking among the mostly barren trees on this trail encouraged me to strip down to deeper layers of protection and surrender them. Calmed by the sound of the creek far below the loneliness started to abate and the embrace of nature held me.
Stepping to the side of the trail as I saw a couple and their medium sized black dog with a bright red checked kerchief around his neck I smiled as they came nearer directing my attentive energy towards the dog in greeting. My hands at my side I gazed up at the couple taking him for a walk.
And then it happened. This affectionate doggie took a moment to give me three licks on my dangling hand while passing by and I almost cried. The woman in the couple laughed softly and I received what dogs give most readily and freely – affection.
That one moment in time shifted me. Acknowledging that one of the things I have missed the most during the last two years of mandated lock downs and human based fear and anxiety has been touch and simple affection.
Sitting by Bent Creek watching the water cascade down rocks from a bench placed perfectly to do so, I fell into the mindful playfulness of the water. That it was in flow and connected with nature’s rhythms as to its destination. Where was I in all of this? Living in that question is all that I can do now.
On the wrong trail to get back to the parking lot I walked an extra distance. Not really lost, but taking a path I thought took me to my destination, and being given the opportunity to go where I had not gone before. A moment of frustration….and then self compassion. Something I recognized as essential for mental, emotional and physical health – overall well being – through these extraordinarily stressful times.
Just before I reached the parking lot there were two women coming down the trail. One had a very cute what I call “Benji” dog on a leash and as they passed I said “what a cutie”. As the woman thanked me I said to her retreating back, “and you too!”. Both women laughed and the one said “I really needed that today.”
And so it is. the giving and receiving of “licks of affection”.
As elders with a long life behind us and not as much embodied life before us, and as humans on the planet Earth at this time, we are being faced with incredible challenges that compete to take our attention.
A couple of days ago I realized I no longer choose to have my attention taken by the fear, doom and gloom broadcast daily, whether on our smart phones news feed or while talking to others. I am weary of it all and need a higher vibration energy bath!.
It is not that I don’t want to know what is happening in the world, but instead the question I am posing to myself, and to you, every day is – where do we want to place our attention? We most always have a choice.
For the month of December I am placing attention on joy, laughter, creativity and acts of kindness as a experiment to see what unfolds. Seeking out and being aware of moments of joy sometimes hidden in the deep pockets and lining of each and every day that seem to get passed over without even looking back. They are always there.
Each day in December you will find a small nugget of joy, humor, creativity or small act of kindness that found me and pulled my attention which will be posted here. I invite you to join me and share your experiences and what you noticed so that we may spread it around! (Please use the “Comment” section below).
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You can also find all of the posts in the archives here: http://wildlyfreeelder.com/2021/12/
Gaye Abbott, Natural Passages Consulting, 12/28/21. Please feel free to share this post and link to WildlyFreeElder