My Environmental Ethics requires us to go on four field trips in our neck of the woods. The goal is to remain in the present for at least 30 minutes. No cell phones. No thoughts of what happened earlier today or what can happen tonight. When you find your thoughts drifting away from the present, you do your best to bring them back to the here and now. Try and use all of your senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, etc. Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. One of my fellow students said I should publish them somehow and he would want to read one of them every day to reconnect himself to nature. So, I thought I would do so here, in the hope that it can have some beneficial effect to those of you reading it.
Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. So without further adieu, here goes nothing, er, my first field trip.
Yesterday, I took a field trip to the section of the Bosque knowns as Tingley Beach. The Bosque is a wooded area located along the banks of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It stretches for miles with lots of dirt paths for walkers, runners, bikers, and nature enthusiasts. Usually, I run there. But yesterday, I decided I would just sit and observe.
I wonder – what made me choose this spot? Because it’s familiar? But, I’ve never sat here on a log and just looked and listened while not moving. There are so many wild sunflowers growing here, some out of what appears to be dead, inhospitable wood accumulated on the ground. How did all these dead tree branches come to be here on the ground? Were they cut down? No, they’re too randomly placed. Did they break off in the wind? That seems more likely, given the winds we have here in Albuquerque, a high desert city.
The breeze blows through the green leaves of the tall cottonwoods above me. I’m comforted by it, even though I can tell by its ferocity that a rainstorm might be coming. I welcome that. To the south are dark clouds. To the north are white puffy clouds that seem to be speeding effortlessly through the sky because of that strong wind. The sun keeps peeking in and out from among the dark clouds, alternately warming and cooling my body.
Sitting quietly, I start to hear the sounds of birds chirping. I hear one chirp, then another, and then a third, all from different locations. They are of different types; each chirp is unique. And are those crickets or cicadas I hear? I love the sound of them, but seeing them in person freaks me out. I’m not a fan of big bugs.
I hear the sounds of civilization off in the distance: traffic noise, a plane flying overhead, the sounds of humans along the dirt path. The humans are close enough that we could both see each other, but they’re too engrossed in their conversations or own thoughts to notice me sitting amongst the cottonwoods. And I am grateful because I want to be left alone to observe, to feel, to hear, to smell. I’m irritated by the intrusion.
I realize I haven’t seen a single bug crawling along the log on which I sit. Surprising, because I usually see them everywhere on the path when I run. And this is the woods! As if I willed it into existence, one appears, and it’s time for me to shift positions. I take a seat on the ground near the sunflowers. I can see the honeybees darting from one flower to the next. But I don’t hear them making a sound. Funny, I thought this was grass, but it feels more like straw. Looking closer, I notice it covers the dead branches and twigs found below it. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s time for me to go, so I walk toward the river.
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