Sitting on a stump weathered gray, a seat in nature.
The cut end of its separated body, the one it must have known and lifted for decades or longer, lies only 4” off its pedestal. The similarly grayed tree fell at an angle on the gentle uphill. Only one side feels the brand of the brilliant morning sun at this point in the day’s spin.
Limbs lopped off lie on either side. The tree stretches 30+ feet, its bark gone, its gray highlighted by yellow. The bark on the stump? What’s left curls as it falls away slowly, too slow to be seen at this moment, this day, this week.
Details. These are why I sat. I hiked, I sat. On this stump. On this legacy of fading nature that looked so perfectly flat in its saw cut and grain to invite sitting. I breathe, I occasionally close my eyes, I listen.
Nature is full and I, not a woodsman but an urbanite who ventures into this scene, only makes that effort with the full understanding I won’t stay. I hike and think it would be great to camp in this place of wild, except for awareness of the lack of my own wildness.
Seeing, Hearing + Feeling Nature
Green growth surrounds the tree, stump and me. A narrow meadow at forest edge.
A creek runs narrow, steady and clear, never stopping its rally cry: downward.
A thin young woman dressed in stretchy athletic apparel and wearing a medium-sized backpack calls to a dog I can’t see. She’s down trail, and I hadn’t noticed her until that call.
She had seen me from afar sitting on this stump off the single-track dirt trail. As she and the now-leashed dog get closer, she asks me if I’m OK with dogs. The sleek vizsla strains at her leash. The woman says, “She just likes to run.”
I say, “I’m good. It’s nature. Let her go.”
The vizsla is off.
A prop plane flies overhead. It’s loud. Are its passengers looking down? I wonder what they see, what catches their eyes, whether they see me, and what string of thoughts that kicks off for them.
The sun sears, even in its modest high-elevation, morning temperature. Sears the logs, the grasses, the trees, the spot on the back of my head that my ball cap doesn’t cover. Only the creek keeps its utmost calm and cool.
A sizable ant, seeming to have two body sections of red and a tail section of black, crawls in a small dirt patch between my feet as I sit on the stump.
I lean over to see its colors closer, to clear my eyes. My sunglasses fall from their hook-armed position over my T-shirt collar, splattering dirt and shocking the ant’s footing.
Voices. Two women. Hiking. Talking. Talking. Talking until realizing I’m there — for a moment. Talking … Walking the trail between them: a large-headed, well-groomed golden Lab pants his way forward, his feathered, combed tail a metronome, a power source. A black Lab pulls up the rear of the group, panting, onward.
The breeze does not discourage flying insects the size of black beans from inspecting me, from landing on me.
The breeze does not blow the scent of pine I know is there. It’s that scent of pine I did not like as a kid who only occasionally was exposed to it coming from forests of leaves not needles. It was the smell I associated with hiking on vacation, hot, long, boring hikes.
It’s that scent of pine I now love, I now enjoy as the parent setting the tone, if not the pace, of my own family’s long walks over the mountains and through the woods. With my own sons whose moods often roll against the terrains we cover.
Pine’s connection to hiking has a new association for adult me, one that reminds me where I am, where I came from, and how I’ve evolved over the years. It marks a return to a place overflowing with possibilities I couldn’t understand as a kid.
Nature. I sit, see, listen, feel.
Nature. I am breathing.