Once in a rare while, something completely magical happens. This weekend contained one of those moments. My husband I bought an old beat-up camper a few years ago. We’ve enjoyed many adventures over the past several summers as we have towed the camper from site to site and state to state. Our youngest son is 18 now, and assures us that he can be trusted at home to tend the dogs and make sure the house doesn’t burn down.
This weekend my husband and I took the rig to a state park campground close to home. Unlike the park we have favored over the past two summers, this park has little in the way of amenities. Our campsite had no power, water or sewer hookups. There is no swimming pool or fancy tile and marble bathhouse. There is, however, an abundance of forest, trees and a beautiful lake for kayaking or canoeing (an adventure we have yet to begin).
We arrived Friday afternoon. Our site was level, but “boring.” Two porta potties and a dumpster were across the street instead of the beautiful river across from our “usual” favorite spot away from home. We set up the trailer and pulled out the chairs, rug and table for our patio.
While I was in the rear of the camper, I saw a tiny weathered path leading into the trees, and I followed it. Inside the cluster of evergreens was a clearing. The opening was a domed sanctuary like no other, and wherever I looked inside the evergreen aviary, there were birds. There were bright yellow goldfinches and black and white woodpeckers. There were red feathers and blue feathers. The sun shone in bright beams through the timbers, and as I moved through the clearing, seemingly dozens of little birds flitted about around me, filling the air with colors. It was a scene straight out of a Disney movie. I took a seat on a fallen log and nearly started singing songs from Cinderella.
Some time later, I reluctantly returned to the campsite, certain that I would never experience anything like this again in my lifetime. I went for a run/hike later that evening with more magical encounters (for another blog, perhaps) and slept soundly.
The next morning I awoke early and set off for a pre-breakfast walk in the early morning quiet. Dots of brilliant yellow dotted the ground outside of the camper. An entire flock of goldfinches were enjoying the morning light alongside me. As I moved along the road so did they, landing on the ground a few feet away and then flying ahead again.
I tried to photograph my walking companions, but the images were grainy and blurred. The image exists only in my memory. I moved from one row of campsites to another and the birds stayed behind. I found trees with dozens of holes drilled by an industrious woodpecker. I climbed a staircase formed by the roots of a benevolent tree. I wandered through an expanse of forest that I immediately deemed “the tree graveyard,” as dozens of fallen trees littered the forest floor while health trees reached up all around.
I frequently run through the woods. Why, then, I asked myself, do I not experience this magic on a regular basis? The answer was at my fingertips – or perhaps my earlobes. I was walking for the sole purpose of being in nature. I wasn’t looking at my pace on my watch. I wasn’t listening to a podcast or a running coach through wireless earbuds. I was exploring a new landscape. New trails and terrain required my constant attention to avoid a nasty fall.
How often are we so absorbed in the artificial world that our technology creates around us that we fail to see the flock of birds, or to hear the crickets at nightfall? Do I miss seeing the doe and her two babies crashing through the woods just ahead of me because I am concentrating on my stride and cadence?
I pay attention to these statistics because I want to be faster. I don’t want to finish dead last in my next race – but at what cost does the potential improvement come? What would happen if most days I simply ran for the joy of running instead of trying to beat my personal record around the trail loop?
When we fill our ears with music and look at the device on our wrist that vibrates every 30 seconds to remind us to MOVE FASTER, what magic do we miss? I’ve reserved the same campsite for next weekend. Do you think the birds will remember me?