Sunday, May 07, 2006

Go to the oak tree, go to the salt flat

“Go to the ant, you sluggard,” the biblical book of Proverbs advises the lazy-minded.
While not doubting that the lazy-minded exist in modern-day America, I know the opposite problem is more likely. What to do?

“Go to the oak tree, you harried and hurried-minded,” I would advise.

On the south side of our DeSoto office, we have a nice bur oak tree. It’s relatively young, but not so young as to not be able to put a quantity of the nice-sized acorns that earn it its name.
Between its leaves, among the largest of oak trees’ foliage, and the large-sized, larger-capped namesake acorns, bur oaks have very visible signs of growth. And that’s the basis for my adage.
In spring, with those large leaves, as over the past couple of weeks, it’s possible to easily observe day-to-day growth. And I do.

I usually park my car near or beneath the tree. (With our recent spate of record-smashing temperatures, I look for the possibility of “beneath” parking every day.)

So, I get a chance — and remember to take the chance — to stop a few seconds and look at the tree’s growth. Ditto in late fall, as I watch how the acorns mature each day, then drop from the tree. (Given the size of bur oak acorns, at this time of year, the parking option is definitely “near” and not “beneath.” I don’t need an oak tree to inflict the equivalent of light hail damage on my car.)

In either case, the slow steady growth of the oak in its leaves, or the slow steady output of its acorns, shows that slow and steady is still an important part of the world around us, if not for our own selves.

This holds true not just with a bur oak, but with spring in general.

I walk my neighborhood in Lancaster almost every day. In early-to-mid-February, I start looking at the trees on the streets, wondering which will be the first to start budding each year and when.
Going by the trees, will it be an early or a late spring?

After the first tree, what’s next?

I do the same thing at Ten Mile Creek Nature Park. Here, I will look at the different species. When will the first bois d’arc start budding? The first pecan?

And likewise in fall. When will the first pecans start forming? How long will it be until the first one falls and hits the ground?

I don’t always practice what I preach on living life in the slower lane, I’ll confess. I sometimes try to cram in too much time web surfing, attempt to cram 25 hours into 24-hour days and otherwise let myself get wound up too tightly.

That’s why this message is for me as well as for you, dear readers. But, sometimes, I do practice what I preach.

While on vacation a month ago, on my next to last day full day out, I was driving through the Mojave Desert of southern California, along a now-decommissioned section of Route 66. I then turned off to go south to Joshua Tree National Park. Just south of the junction, a series of salt flats, backdropped by mountain ranges, stretches to the horizon.

I stopped to take pictures of the geometric structure of the salt flats; another car had already done so. (For me, it was a chance to play with my ultrawide lens, to boot.)

But, after I had my fill of shooting, I realized that, especially with somewhat overcast weather, I was in no hurry to get to Joshua Tree. So, on a warmish 80-degree day, I took an hour on the flats to sit and meditate. I felt years younger after I got done.

The point is, sometimes, we may need to do more than just slow our lives down, we may need to sit and stop, however each of us does that.

Go to the oak tree? At times, it may be go to the desert.
The solitude and vastness of the desert will always put the rest of life in perspective, if we let it. Is it any wonder that religious and spiritual leaders, and some of history’s great artists as well, have found inspiration in the desert places?

Note: I appreciate people who have told me they like hearing about my travels and seeing my pictures. My latest are online in my Yahoo photo albums are here. I have a number of folders titled “2006 spring vacation” then the particular geographic site appended to the folder name. Pictures include a mating pair of American avocets wading in a shallow pool on the salt flats, a desert bighorn in Grand Canyon and several desert and red rock sunset and storm cloud pictures.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Why I haven't posted here recently


is part of why.

This is from the South Kaibab trail in Grand Canyon, a little over half a trail mile or so, and about 500 vertical feet, below the South Rim.

I was on vacation the second half of March, getting ready for it before then, and spending a fair amount of my free time for two weeks afterward editing photos, more of which are on my Yahoo profile.

This vacation definitely had its philosophical/personal growth/spiritual moments. One of the biggest of them was spending nearly a full hour meditating on a salt flat in the Mojave Desert. I felt almost five years younger when I finally got up.

Nature, and great nature photography opportunities like the one above, are similiarly "spiritual," in my secular way of understanding the word "spiritual(-ity)."