It doesn't really matter but it kinda really does

This morning, I went on a last-minute hike with Tango. I had been feeling called to find some way of interrupting the regular flow of daily life and ground myself. The last few months have been heavy, and my attempts to keep up have left me disorganized, forgetful, and simply not present.

When I was 15 or 16, I wrote a sentence in my journal that stuck with me. Not because it was poetic, but because it was cryptic: The mountains grew tall to humble the rest.

I had just come back from a family trip to Jasper National Park where I felt the profound sanctity that the Rockies had to offer. Since then, I have stumbled on this phrase a few times, trying to interpret exactly what I meant by that. I suppose I just knew that nature had a magnitude I would never fully comprehend.

So, today as I walked through the forest I took my time, careful to pay attention to what I was seeing. I greeted every squirrel, bird, and chipmunk. I watched a woodpecker search for its breakfast, only to fly to a better tree out of my sight. I said hello when it came, I said goodbye as it left. I looked at the trees, all of them older than I will ever be. Each have witnessed many like me who have walked under its canopy.

If the mountains grew tall, and so did the trees it was not just for us, but to mark an order. For the first time in a long time, with these trees towering over my dog and I, I felt comfortably small. I have been too close, I think, to my world, to my own problems, to the dynamics of my inner creations and of the world I’ve built. I still am, obviously, impacted deeply by this curated space, but for a moment I was small, not helpless. I was alone but with kind and welcoming company. I was placed back in a context that was more comfortable for me, where my own impermanence felt both profoundly liberating and powerful.

Nature, in many ways, presents us with the juxtaposition of being alive, of legacy and of impermanence—neither of which the trees are particularly concerned with. Where I find a constant teeter between the nihilism and emancipatory nature of existence, the forest reminds me of the presence of both, not a pendulum swaying, but a grounded force I was welcome to encounter.

As I watched the water, a lake which formed over 10,000 years ago, I felt blessed to bear witness. I knew it was short lived, that the time I spent in this space was limited. But it was not insignificant.

It is easy to fall into the trap of our eventual demise. We believe death means that our time on Earth is meaningless, or that we are prey to something greater than us. I fall into this probably 10 or 12 times a day, less if I’m lucky.

But as I sat with my dog, the dog I’ve had since I was 19 and going through a time awfully similar to right now, I knew that the significance of this moment would not be lost on me. I knew that though I already forget much of the hour or so I spent in the forest, I was impacted meaningfully. Isn’t that enough?

Isn’t it enough that we have these moments for us? That we can witness with tremendous courage and curiosity, the absolute clusterfuck that is our place on Earth. Even though I feel heavy, I also feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to experience even a fragment of what I have in my life so far. I would do it all again if given the chance.

So, I walked and walked and walked. I sat by the water while my dog wandered along the (barely) lapping shore and I felt something close to understanding.  

I, like the other thousands of people (probably a gross underestimate), have walked those trails, and yet, I see no proof of them. I was virtually alone, aside from my dog and the forest animals which came and went. They all, with their own memories or experiences altered and forever changed by the happenstances of their time and place. Maybe none of it sticks around. Perhaps we are the sole witness of our own luck, and I think that is enough.


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