Following the deer trails

When I was younger , I used to follow the deer trails in the woods behind our house on Little Sebago Lake, endlessly. Later working a full time job, the patterns of my 40 hour work life drew me into predictable patterns on my walks. I’d take the trail I knew. I had to fit my walk into a time slot. Wandering would take too much time. We get stuck in patterns, and the structure of a 40 hour work life leads to patterns in the rest of one’s life and a dullness that comes from that.

Saturday going for a walk with my daughter, we decided to go a random route. So we wandered a trail, lost it, cut through to another trail. It turned swampy and sloppy, so we went back and finally after a bit of wandering around found the road we were looking for. In the process, we came across trees full of red-winged blackbirds, a favorite of mine, chattering. and then the double whistle of a chickadee, like a “squeaky seesaw,” as my daughter said.

So yesterday I just wandered. I went down my usual path to a small cascade, hopped some rocks, wandered along the stream, and discovered another small cascade further down the stream. I wandered around some swampy places, climbed some boulders, found a deer trail that led through some downed pines back to an old road. Nothing major but a pleasure just to wander and discover the excitement of uncertainty. “Wander,” an old teacher said.

We get caught in structures of our own creations, of what we think we want or need, or what might need, and then we realize these life structures aren’t really us anymore. We need to wander and find our way, feel our way, step-by-step. What is the next best step? Let’s take it. As old zen saying goes, “Take a step off a 100 foot pole.”

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