Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meditating in Nature

For my late morning walk today with Kodi I chose College Woods in Durham. It is one of my favorite places to walk, beneath towering old hemlock and white pine. Kodi quietly sniffs twigs and logs, takes a cool-off swim in his regular swimming holes, and gives an occasional lazy summer day chase to a squirrel. I listen to the summer resident birds: scarlet tanager, hermit thrush, red-eyed vireo, winter wren. Often we are alone. It is peaceful and meditative.

I hear and see so much when I walk in woods and fields and along wetland edges. This week I spent two days wandering about two different ownerships, lands for which I've written or am writing a wildlife habitat management plan. In a way I get to work and meditate at the same time, at least when I am in "the field" by myself. These particular lands are on the edge of the White Mountains along or near the Maine-New Hampshire border. Territory that is both wild and tamed, with stone walls and lost foundations, old gardens and old trees.

On Monday as I bushwhacked through one property, I flushed a bird from a thicket of young hemlock. The hemlock seedlings were no more than a foot tall growing in a small clearing, not far I might add from a huge pile of bear scat. As I parted the lush boughs, there on the ground was a hermit thrush nest with five blue eggs. Earlier in the day I saw another hermit thrush nest with four newly hatched young beneath a lowbush blueberry shrub. While many birds are already starting their migration southward, the thrushes are still nesting (The robin--also a thrush--is raising her third brood beneath our deck). Here is the hemlock thicket and the thrush nest.
As I emerged from the woods and ambled back to my car for lunch, I disturbed a young garter snake on the dirt road. The snake was rather feisty, even as garter snakes go. The small ones must feel they have to be really tough to defend themselves.
Tuesday morning I woke early to walk the tree-lined edges of meadows in search of invasive plants. I was staying at a client's lovely bungalow on 260 acres with wildflower meadows stretching down a south-facing slope. Mist was rising off the small pond, the dew soaked my shoes and socks and pants, but I was alone in the early morning, peacefully meditating as I wandered about in search of buckthorn and bittersweet.
On this same land, a big barn is left open to allow eight or more pairs of barn swallows to swoop in and out all summer long. I stood in the barn and watched them elegantly and noisily fly up to the rafters where their mud nests clung to the roof. At my feet were hundreds of recently harvested garlic bulbs drying in that cool barn with a summer breeze blowing through and a fantastic view southeast to North Kearsarge. Those barn swallows are most fortunate and so am I.

The barn with a view


  1. Ellen, I simply must take a moment to comment on your photo of the tree-lined meadow with the mist rising from the pond. That is truly a stunningly beautiful photograph!


  2. Thanks for noting the photo John! It was one of those moments that I cherish: alone in the early morning, sun rising, animals stirring, dew on the grass, and mist rising. I felt very, very fortunate at that moment. Ellen