The following are segments from old hiking journals which I recently found.
Today I am reminded that I am a mere human living on this planet with perigone falcon, butterflies, dogs, geckos all kinds of lyrical song birds, wind, trees, leaves and trickling streams. I notice the song birds chirping as I sit writing this at a picnic table. The wind gently blowing through the forest in waves gives me peace of mind. The puffy clouds, dark on the bottom, bright on the top, dot the clear blue sky like cotton balls. The smell of pine fills the air. I hugged a tree and a tree hugged me.
Fire is not my element. I am a water person, a fish, a Pisces , but the glowing embers of our declining campfire mesmerize me. Broken wood coals from a dwindling fire glow with a soft flicker that a fire’s flame does not suggest. The embers are just a hint of a fire that no longer exists. The raging path of destruction has passed and the embers are the calm after the storm. It is time to take inventory of what the flame destroyed, cool down now and rest. In this case, the fire destroyed a branch and a few pieces of purchased fire wood. The flame rests now. Embers still glow, giving off heat. The destructive fire is a comfort to us. We balance what the fire destroys with what it gives us: warmth, heat, the ability to cook, a social gathering around a campfire and something to look at better than TV or internet. It is an element with such capacity for destruction, yet such capacity for life.
Today, we thought we hiked the Blue Ridge Trail in Pine Top, but ended up on a dirt, forest service road. On the plus side, we did not see a soul which gave us the opportunity to view quite a bit of wildlife that was not scared away by noisy humans. We initially, ran across a herd of elk at the beginning and would see them again later. We inadvertently, chased a terrified squirrel up a tree, who in a fearful escape, jumped to another tree across the trail, fell to the forest floor, then quickly, scurried up another tree on the other side. Finally, the road started to descend and we crossed the Blue Ridge Trail marked by blue diamonds on the trees. We decided to continue on the road because we thought it would get us back sooner. From a distance, I saw a gray animal with a bushy tail. I thought it might be a fox, but it seemed to big to be a fox. Maybe it was a coyote. I’m not sure. A little later, I could hear the familiar squeal of elk, like we had heard earlier when we saw the first herd. This time we caught them just as several adult elk had crossed the road in front of us, while a baby was left behind on the other side of the dirt road. The baby stopped when it saw us and called to it’s mother. We could see the mother starting to turn around for her baby when the baby gained the courage to cross the road. We can understand wildlife just as we understand humans. We are not so different. A baby afraid to cross when it saw strangers and a mother returning to protect her young is not unlike our own species. Or a small squirrel that usually goes unnoticed, realizing it was recognized, even though it was high up, that it became so scarred that it risked making a seven foot leap to escape my gaze. Animals can teach us about ourselves when we see ourselves in them. Unfortunately, our hike did not end there. As we continued on the road, we saw the remains of the human impact: trash left behind at several campsites and broken up concrete blocks. This was a day where I noticed my impact on nature. The squirrel and the elk noticed me. I did nothing more than give them a little unexpected shock at seeing a stranger who did not belong. I left nothing behind. But I can’t say that for others of my kind. There was far too much trash for us to pack out and it was clear humans had touched the lives of the inhabitants of the forest. I think it is possible to live in harmony with nature and these brief interactions with wildlife help us to understand that we are part of a much larger world. If only the people who left the trash would pay more attention, would observe more, they would see we are all the same. We can learn to respect wildlife when we see they are just like us.