Time

 

waterfall

It’s November, most of the trees have dropped their leaves, and last week we had a smattering of snow, but it is going to be warm and sunny today. As I drove along the rises and falls of back roads I could look out from the ridges across valleys brimming with soupy swirly fog and when the road plunged down into them, my windshield clouded over with a thin layer of clinging water.

I stopped at a spot that I often visit. My plan for today is simple; just start at the bottom and follow the ravine all the way to the top – walk the stones, climb the falls, and slosh through the water.

Many times I start out my hikes moving way too quickly. Inured to the pace of life outside the forest, I rush ahead to see what is around the next bend forgetting to look at what is already at hand. At times like these my camera brings perspective.

Something catches my eye and I’m forced to pause. I walk back and forth checking various angles. I have to drop my backpack, dig out the camera, open the tripod, and get set up in a good spot. I like to get close to my subjects so getting into the good spot often requires crawling over around and in between rocks and logs; bending and twisting, crouching and kneeling. The exposures are long so once I hit the shutter, I have time…

Time. Sitting still. Looking. Listening. Touching. Breathing. I begin to feel time. I sense it just as I sense the warmth of sunshine or the cold splash of a waterfall. Time. No longer an abstract concept marked out by the hands on my watch – it is something palpable. Something to be heeded.

Stone

It flows in the ever changing yet never varying musical movement of the water. It seeps down into the ground as undermined stone crumbles away inching the ravine deeper and deeper. Time twists and turns along the pathways of unseen breezes that animate the trees. Its rhythm beats in the unaffected movements of insects and birds and forest animals. The sun walks with measured pace across the sky drawing out shifting shadows upon the forest floor. The nomad clouds come and go – without power for movement on their own; they are content to be pushed about by the streams of the air.

If I had nothing to slow me down, if I pushed ahead intent on reaching some goal, if I never paused to look intently at the things around me, I could cut a swath through this time. I could thrust it aside and keep it from touching me. I would be in the woods, but outside it at the same time. Though physically present I would be in my own little time bubble – almost in another dimension. The forest would go on around me and close behind in my wake. In passing I might catch a glimpse and think to myself that I was there and that I had experienced it – been part of it. But it was just scenery.

Now sitting still on cold living stone the time gets on me. Water splashes around me, a breeze chills me, trees lean over me and a squirrel scolds me from his high perch, shadows move across my face, I watch the sun to see what it will slowly reveal. Time sinks into me. I feel its pulse and the forest transforms from scenery to life.

waterfall

Most people are on the the world, not in it – have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them – undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” John Muir

It seems to me that the true experience of wilderness depends not on how far you walk or how high you climb but on how often you stand still – when you rest your hand on stone and wood and embrace the time of that place.

MDW

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10 Responses to “Time”

  1. flandrumhill Says:

    ‘It seems to me that the true experience of wilderness depends not on how far you walk or how high you climb but on how often you stand still…’
    What a great insight.

  2. forestrat Says:

    flandrumhill,

    Thanks for dropping by and the kind words.

    MDW

  3. openpalm Says:

    this is such a lovely lovely site. thank you for taking these walks and these photos and for having these thoughts.

    my precious moments out are those that involve listening…the sort of listening that lets the sound enter in. Becoming permeable. And somehow larger larger for it.
    –op

  4. forestrat Says:

    Thanks op,

    Listening to the outdoors is something that is not talked much about – mostly people describe only what they see with their eyes. The sounds, the scents, and the tactile are all integral to the experience (sometimes the taste angle too if there are wild berries or herbs around).

    MDW

  5. fencer Says:

    Hi forestrat,

    One of my favorite outdoor activities has been following ravines. I’ve had to do it with various jobs I’ve had, most recently looking for signs of unstable slopes near proposed developments, and many years ago, charging down mountains doing stream sampling for a mining company. I’ve enjoyed greatly those parts of the job.

    Enjoyed your photos and your thoughtful words as well…

    Regards

  6. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Ah, Time!
    Elusive Time!
    It speeds up as we race through work and chores;
    It slows with inactivity.
    Some days, some weeks, some months seem to pass by in a blur. How did it get to be November already?
    It weighs on us some days, waiting for something to occur; and is light and airy, as ethereal as the Aurora Borealis when we wish it to stand still.
    A Contrarian, it seems.

    A very enjoyable read.
    I can best relate your forest times of quiet absorption, of being, to my time in the garden.
    K

  7. Relationship Dating Says:

    I love photography and I love nature. And those pictures are perfect. I love the water flowing. Your work shows that being simple makes a work more beautiful.

    John

  8. Aaron Campbell Says:

    Wonderful photography.. right up my alley.

  9. eyegillian Says:

    More lovely waterfall photos! I especially like the middle one with the rocks and moss and leaves… and a tiny little waterfall. Lovely!

    You have written a thought-provoking meditation on time. The idea of moving in a bubble through time so it doesn’t touch you — wow, you’ve really caught the conundrum of the modern-day race of busyness. Lots to think about here…

  10. forestrat Says:

    Thanks everybody.

    Time is a very strange and flexible thing depending on our moods and situations. Some days it does seem to drag, but more often (maybe as I get older) there never seems to be enough of it.

    MDW

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