Nine Miles Deep [Free Verse]

nine miles down
an old dirt road 
that runs the valley,

the road disappearing
before the pass,

fading into a footpath,
and then into a vague notion

in a rare turn of events,
i can see - but not hear -
the whitewater 
that's running back toward 
from whence i came,
and then on to a sea
in some distant country

i sit on a grassy hilltop,
feeling i'm far enough 
down the road 
to be at peace

Failing Daylight [Free Verse]

i walked the rutted road
in failing daylight
& 
wondered what I might find
when it turned to night
& 
milky moonlight 
would be the only 
means to see
&
i hear the relentless chirp
of a bullfrog that can't be seen
because it's everywhere
to my non-directional ears
but 
still i look for it
&
i step into a puddle
& 
my sock is squishy
with each left step
& 
i go home

BOOK REVIEW: Forest Walking by Peter Wohlleben & Jane Billinghurst

Forest Walking: discovering the trees and woodlands of North AmericaForest Walking: discovering the trees and woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Out: April 26, 2022

Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees” was one of those rare books that profoundly changed the way I looked at the world, and so I was eager to read his forthcoming work. This book is at once narrower in focus (i.e. intended to appeal to the North American market, specifically,) but also much much broader (i.e. reflecting upon not just the trees but the other species that reside among them as well as how humans can best get around within the forest.) It might seem strange for Wohlleben (a German forester) to do a book on the North American forests, and I suspect that’s one reason that his one-time translator / editor (Jane Billinghurst) became his co-author. [I don’t know where Billinghurst is from, but she does add many North America-specific vignettes to the book.]

Like “The Hidden Life of Trees” this book is packed with intriguing insights into woodland environments. The twenty-one chapters aren’t explicitly divvied up, but there’s a clear logic to the grouping of chapters. An opening chapter focuses on the importance of having a multi-sensory experience in the woods, and then chapters two through five are concentrated on trees and their various parts.

Chapters six through eight explore species that work on, with, and against trees, with particular focus on fungi and other species that break down and recycle forest material. Chapters nine and ten turn the attention to how to help kids get the most out of their forest experience. The next couple chapters consider how to get the most of seeing the forest at unconventional times, i.e. night and during varied seasons. Then there are a few chapters investigating how to observe other lifeforms of the forest, particularly animals and insects.

Several chapters follow that explore how humans can survive and thrive in wooded ecosystems, including everything from wilderness survival / primitive living skills to dressing to save oneself from ticks and chiggers.

I learned a lot from this book. As I mentioned, it’s full of intriguing little tidbits about the forest.

The opening sentence of the book’s Introduction did mention it being intended as a book one would take into the forest with one, and I would say it’s not that book at all. It’s the kind of book one reads before going out (and probably returns to after coming back) but it’s just not organized in such away to make it worth lugging around (i.e. it’s not like a field guide – set up to allow one to rapidly find what one is interested in on the fly.)

That said, you’ll learn a lot from reading it, and I’d highly recommend it.


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DAILY PHOTO: Walking in the Tall Grass, Chitradurga

Taken in Chitradurga Fort in September of 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh & Nguyen Anh-Huong

Walking Meditation (With DVD)Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

This brief guide to walking meditation lays out a basic practice linking breath and stride, and then explores such topics as: how to apply the practice to varied environments, coping with emotion through [and during] walking, the social dimension of walking meditation, and a few thoughts on applying the practice to jogging. The book is nominally attributed to the beloved Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who recently passed (i.e. January 2022,) Thich Nhat Hanh, but it seems the bulk of the book was written by the co-author (Nguyen Anh-Huong.) That said, it’s a clearer distribution of labor than usual for mega-guru books; not only does the author get a co-author credit but the words of Thich Nhat Hanh are presented as textboxes with bylines.

The book is less than a hundred pages of text, but the edition I have came with a CD and DVD (if anyone still has a player for these antiquated technologies. If you’re paying full price, I’d make sure you have some means to play the CD and DVD. I obtained a used copy at a low price, so it wasn’t a concern.) The book’s brevity has both pros and cons. On the pro side, it keeps things simple. The practice is a straightforward one of linking one’s breath to one’s stride, and there’s no tedious elaborations or variations with which to contend. On the con side, if one is looking for insight into improving alignment or biomechanics of walking, that’s not covered in this book. That is probably for the best, because it’s hard to avoid overthinking the practice if one is given extensive directions on stride and the like. This isn’t so much a criticism as an attempt to temper expectations for those who may feel they would benefit from some sort of anatomical or biomechanical insights on walking or physiological insights about the breath.

If you’re looking for a quick and straightforward guide to practicing walking meditation, give it a read.

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Walking [Common Meter]

The columns of the forest lift
the vaulted canopy.
I walk down below on the trail
that parts understory.

Each step through the loam brings me home
to barefoot days of yore.
When I thought nothing of placing
skin to the forest floor --

while letting the woods become me
as I grew into it;
I would yield my identity.
To nature, I'd submit.

And in a walk, I did become
everything and nothing,
falling into a peace at once
humbling and stunning.