The fall my marriage began to fall apart, and as I knew it, my life, I decided to go to my favorite park for a walk in the woods. My mind was hot and the day was torrid as I set foot down the trail. I walked to try to forget but all I could do was remember. It seemed everything on the trail was a sign that I was on the wrong path. Even though I’d walked the trail several times before, I kept finding myself back at the beginning. Eventually, I found a part of the trail I’d never seen before. A small ravine at the edge of the woodland. I wondered if there were trails I hadn’t walked before on the other side. A potentially unused woodland open for me to sing in as I walked. I slid cautiously down the ravine on my butt, and awkwardly climbed up the other side. I swung my leg over the top of drop off and looked up to see the back of a building and a very thin wooded area. Nothing to explore. Certainly not better than what was on the other side.
I wanted to jump over the ravine. I felt so stupid for wasting all of this time and effort going down and up the ravine and getting to the other side and realizing it was completely and totally not worth it.
I walked with a purpose towards the other side of the woodland. Focused only on my mind, thinking about a walk I had gone in a muddy woodland with someone I’d loved for a very long time and tried to forget. I felt stupid for thinking about him. I felt stupid for wanting to go down the ravine with him as well, knowing that what came out on the other side wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful as what I already had.
I was convinced this was Mother Nature’s way of telling me to just hold up, to be happy with what I had. Why can’t I just be happy? Why can’t I just be more grateful? Why am I so ungrateful?
The outside looking in. That was all I could see, all I could feel.
I sat down on a fallen tree, my mind still churning out blocks of self-hatred. I felt hopelessly stuck and hopelessly hopeless. I looked up to the sky, hoping to see something that would mean life wasn’t just a pointless joke. Something that would mean we all weren’t doomed to hate our lives.
There, sitting in front of me was a red bellied woodpecker. I’d seen them before, small red flashes in between branches. This was different. I could see the white wing patches, almost like chicken feathers, right in front of me. I just sat silently, wondering how long I could watch before he flew away.
I wasn’t thinking anymore. It was like my mind wasn’t even on. This was meditation, the greatest meditation I had ever done. Just simply being and observing. I felt limitless and open, like I was experiencing something completely earthly. After about ten minutes the woodpecker flew to another tree, and I got up to make my way home.
As I retraced my steps on the dirty path I felt betrayed by the world. People, your parents and the adults around you, tell you to get married, to get jobs, to have babies. No one tells you to stop and look at a tree. No one tells you to become friends with birds, or to know their names. We quickly put more and more work in front of people without giving it a second thought, yet no one considers forcing themselves to be in nature. It would just be a waste of time. You don’t need to give yourself a moment to be a human and not a machine.
I’ve found that it’s just as much about the work of crossing the ravine as it is seeing what’s on the other side. And sometimes you have to build the other side yourself.