We like to experience nature in crowds. We bring our family, friends, our partners, but we dp not venture out so much by ourselves. We typically run or bicycle alone, but walking prompts invitations. Going outdoors without company may conjure up some uncomfortability — fears of large critters, and the small, snakes, ticks, spiders.
Still, many have purposedly gone outside alone to overcome their “nature unease.” Cheryl’s Stray’s bestseller, “Wild,” showcased one woman’s solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. I used to conduct environmental education programs for adults and our last activity was appropriately called Solitude, spending a night alone. One college student was thrilled to experience sleeping outdoors by herself to overcome her fear of the night.
Author Steve Van Matre tells the great story of a fifth grader who was spending time at her “Magic Spot.” She had learned about remaining motionless in order to not scare any animals away that may be frightened by movement. The 10 year old girl was sitting against a tree when she heard something big approach her from behind. Normally, she (like all of us) would have looked to determine what it was, but to her credit she stayed still. Then when the animal was directly behind her, the deer placed its head right in front of the girl and held there for a few seconds before trotting away.
Land Stewards often work alone, by choice, for they learn that much magic in nature comes from being quiet and being alert with all senses fully alive and on an adventure. They probably have read the writings of solitary naturalists: John Muir, Thoreau, Barry Lopez, among others who gained such deep insights when walking alone in wild places.
Walking alone may also allow for being on one’s unhindered, unrushed time frame, rather than being on someone else’s tight schedule. One should always have time for the natural world. ~
Malheur Dawn by William Stafford
MALHEUR LAKE DAWN
An owl sound wandered along the road with me.
I didn’t hear it —I breathed it into my ears.
Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving
polished little circles on the sky for awhile.
Then the sun began to shout from below the
Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.
From across a pond, out of the mist,
one drake made a V and said its name.
Some vast animal of air began to rouse
from the reeds and lean outward.
Frogs discovered their national anthem again.
I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy.
So magic a time it was that I was brave and
afraid. Some day like this might save the world.