It was a somber week. Work was decent but losing a dear friend took the wind out of my sails and I found it hard to elevate my thoughts away from sadness.
So, yesterday afternoon I decided to treat myself to a trail and I broke away from the computer and headed off to Circle B for a while. It was late afternoon and it broke all my rules of early morning trails, but I needed the escape.
Nature trails have the wonderful ability to recharge our batteries at the toughest of times and yesterday was no exception. They had a couple of trails closed off for alligator nesting season so it kind of forced my hand with the path I ended up taking.
But my whole time there I only saw three other people and that was a fleeting moment. For almost the entire journey it was just me and my thoughts and the wonderful natural world around me.
All five senses had their moment yesterday. The smells after prior rains were so wonderful, there was no mistaking that I was away from the human world.
And the humidity carried a taste with it that I happily gorged myself in.
Visually, there were creatures and plants and water everywhere and I was saturated in them.
I stopped along the way and touched the softness of a seeding little plant and it was so soft, you could just about feel the edges. (it’s in one of the photos).
But it was the sound that created most memories for me yesterday. A couple of moments along narrow paths, I was surrounded by the incessant growling of hidden alligators. It was all around me … left and right, in front and behind and it was wonderful.
I have experienced it at times before and so it didn’t scare me because I knew it was territorial rather than aggression. But its effect was to remind me that I was in their world and not mine. And I was alone.
It is a very humbling experience. And if photographs could capture it, this blog would be full of them. But instead you will have to settle for a little variety of birds and butterflies (including a wonderful snake who was crossing the path right in front of me). I hope you enjoy.
Anyway, the whole experience was truly one of being immersed in a world that was happy to swallow me up. The lack of humans meant there was no distraction from the natural world around me and by the time I was finished, the losses of the week were no longer relevant and life seemed balanced.
I wish I could fully explain the growls because for those of you that have never heard alligator growls, they are so base that you can feel them in the pit of your stomach.
I suspect we humans feel them in this way because it is meant to evoke a flight or fight response. If so, the flood of adrenalin I experienced only served to increase my happiness with the moment and not run from it.
And the fact that these creatures were all hidden from view heightened the experience even further. As I stepped slightly off the trail to get that butterfly shot, a growl suddenly stopped and I became aware that its owner could probably see me now so better to just step back on the trail and keep moving.
Sometimes recognition that the world does not revolve around us is an important aspect of being able to deal with grief. It helps put things into perspective.
Life and death existed in every inch of those trails yesterday. We humans focus heavily on the social relationships within life and when we lose someone we mourn. It is in our nature. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Perhaps if I had lost my life to an alligator yesterday, there would be those who mourn me today. But as the sun arose over a new day on those trails today, I can pretty much guarantee that there is very little mourning going on for all the other creatures that never made it to see this day.
Instead, I strongly suspect that the natural world is more about a celebration of life. A happiness to be here and a contentment in being able to live out the day.
As humans we place heavy emphasis on the social experience of life; the joy of sharing it with those around us. And when we love someone the joy increases. And we are right to do that. Because it is part of the human experience of life.
Unfortunately we have evolved to focus too much on the death portion of life and because it represents an unknown to us we then attach fear and loss to death that really is more damaging than anything else.
Religions tend to focus on life after death and creates a perception that we will see anyone we lose here again sometime up in the clouds. It soothes some people to think that way and that is fine. I call it the placebo effect of religion. It does no harm.
Perhaps if we disarm the fear of death and could learn to embrace it as a more natural part of the life experience, then the feeling of loss would be lessened and allow us to focus on the time we have here together.
Life can be a celebration if we focus on the here and now and those that we are fortunate enough to have in our lives. Sharing time, experiences, and love with whoever we value is a true medicine for all concerned.
I am not saying for a moment that the feeling of loss isn’t real. I am only saying that once we have experienced it, we need to stop, lick our wounds and move forward. And celebrating their lives with us is much more natural than mourning their loss.
Those we love, live in our world and share our experience. Those we have loved, live in our hearts and share our memories.