The weather forecast was looking bleak. Western New York Weather 101: A mild start to the winter means Lake Erie remains wide open and unfrozen. Which in turn means any “system” which swoops across the lake combined with low temperatures produces snow. Lots of snow. Quickly. And often in small bands.
That is what this week was going to bring us — lots of snow followed by bitter cold. (Temperatures in single digits combined with windchill would cause the Lockport Y-10 race to be postponed later in the week. That never happens people. Ever.) I started to stress a little bit about getting out on a trail this week, fitting in the timing of it around work and the weather. Then I remembered there are no rules other than the ones I created for myself. Step back. Find a spot. Go.
Ash Wednesday brought me to the Town of Lockport Nature Trails. There were critics in my head. But you’ve already been here before. You’re already repeating places? How lame. Part of me wanted to tell those critics to go piss off, but it’s Lent and I’m working on being less judgmental and having a more open heart. So I thanked them for their input but reminded them my project was to get out on a trail once a week for a year — not to go once new place every week. Remember why you started. The reason was to get outside, in the woods, into nature, to explore, to witness, to be calm. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same trail every damn week because when you start to really pay attention the trail is always changing.
Earlier in the day I read a posting on Instagram from Fr. Dan at Mt. Irenaeus and this line stuck with me:
I know this valley; these trees and pond — to open my eyes to what is truly HERE … Before us and within us.
I held this in my heart as I entered the trail, taking the time to notice my surroundings. I let my mind wander as I walked. It was swirling with ideas and excitement from a morning interview and I needed to let it rest. Instead my focus became paying attention. I noticed the color of the old growth tree and saw a heart shaded into bark. I followed blazes on the snow covered path that led me to the waterfall, still gently running in the February cold.
My critics were no longer holding court in my brain and the frenetic thoughts calmed down. The quiet of the trail (with the exception of gun shots in the distance. Is every nature trail adjacent to a gun range?) didn’t still my mind — it centered my mind. Thoughts continued to flow through my brain but my mental energy was less manic, more purposeful.
I took some time to stand by the waterfall and breath in the crisp winter day. I took the time to open my eyes to what is truly here, as Fr. Dan wrote. And then I remember one of my favorite lines from poet Mary Oliver.
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
Date: Feb. 10, 2016
Location: Lockport Nature Trails
Total distance: 2.03 miles
Elevation: 92 feet
Duration: 1 hour
Weather: 28 degrees, cloudy
Hiked with: solo