Friday, April 27, 2007

Walking as a Spiritual Practice

Part of the Vein of Gold involves daily twenty-minute walks to reinvigorate yourself, process information, open yourself up to the beauty of the world, and express gratitude.

I've been walking regularly for years, but started a new routine a few months ago in the backcountry behind our house. I walk on an old Forest Service road.

The plant communities are mostly chapparal and oak woodland. We are at the edge of the Mojave, and have very little water. Everything that survives here must have adapted for a harsh life without much water.

Still, amid the harsh landscape, I find that there is such unexpected beauty here. This plant is a fire follower (I can't place its name, despite learning it as a naturalist).

I walk with my dog, who tends to scare off any wildlife. But I manage to surprise this baby side blotched lizard into staying still (middle of the frame).

Most of the trail is open and exposed. Usually I leave earlier in the day, but I couldn't seem to get out before 8 a.m. There is something raw and vulnerable about being this exposed with only rare opportunities for shade on the hillside.

And something so tiring when I finally make it to the oak tree where I sit before heading back. (Just so you know, this is really not a good photo of me, unless you want to see what I look like after a workout and with not enough sleep).

I'm developing quite the courtship of this particular oak tree. In wet years, it shades a swimming hole. But most years, it simply shades an arroyo and the rare hiker who manages to find this bit of shade in the desert.

I say my morning prayers under the oak. Most of my prayers are of gratitude for being alive and being allowed to survive and thrive. Thank you.

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