Sunday, November 15, 2009
Walking in Silence
A soft warm day today, low clouds, no wind. Perfect for a hike around Mud Pond with a group of folks who agreed to walk in silence, the better to hear the sounds of nature around us. And the woods itself cooperated with our efforts to keep still. Yesterday's rain had dampened the leaves on the path, which diminished the rustling while cushioning our footfalls, and the low misty clouds rested quietly on the tops of the mountains.
Every 15 minutes or so, our hike leader, Ben, would gather our group around him and ask us what sounds or smells or sights we had noticed as we walked along without speaking. We heard chipmunks and chickadees, blue jays and crows, a woodpecker laughing, and the sound of our own breathing. We saw a deer in the woods and geese and mergansers out on the pond, and we smelled the distinctive scent of decomposing leaves.
I usually avoid hiking with groups of people because the constant chatter obliterates the sounds of the woods and decreases the chance we will ever encounter any wildlife. So I applaud Moreau Lake State Park staffers for offering this silent hike. And I'm happy to report that all the participants truly did try to honor the spirit of the adventure. Plus, I knew that two of my good friends, Linda and Sue, would be participating, and I always treasure the time I can spend with them.
My personal goal for this hike was to try to let the experience flow through me, without trying to analyze or name or hold on to events as they passed. However, when I saw this picture-pretty patch of Partridgeberry and Running Pine, I couldn't resist taking a photo.
Postscript: I received a note from a reader who calls the Running Pine pictured here by another name. As a matter of fact, this particular club moss (Lycopodium digitatum) has at least five other common names: Fan Clubmoss, Crowfoot Clubmoss, Southern Ground Cedar, Southern Running Cedar, and Trailing Ground Pine. Probably many more. I used the common name Running Pine, because that's how it is named in the New York State list of protected plants, where it is called "exploitably vulnerable."