Geography And Other Loving Relationships

An acquaintance of mine, a friend of a friend, once said to me:  “You need to get your life philosophy straight.”

Well, it’s hard to argue with that advice.  Actually I quite agree.  A life philosophy, however, needs a little time to germinate…you know, while you are in the process of actually living it.

I do not have a comprehensive life philosophy (yet) but I do have a couple of, shall we say, tenets, that are fully-fleshed.  One of them is:

Humans are meant to be in relationship with their geography by moving across it.

And by that I mean on foot, and preferably every day.  Think about it; we are built to move across a landscape, one foot in front of the other, a pace that allows us to absorb sight and sound and touch but also give our minds a chance to relax and process and, dare I say, dream.  (I get crazy-wonderful ideas when I’m out walking.)  Walking is the perfect pace for our brains to capture data and assimilate it.

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I am lucky to be accompanied every day by two beagles who would rather give up eating than be denied a long walk through the fields.  The dogs give themselves over to the experience and, being hounds, literally follow their noses.  Last month one of the beagles was hospitalized for an entire day for minor surgery and she was too groggy that night to go for more than a little wobbly stumble in the back yard.  But she was raring to go the next day and announced her triumphant return to the fields by baying at the top of her lungs.  It was great and I knew exactly how she felt.

I am lucky to have as-yet undeveloped land in which to traverse and after 14 years of trudging daily through the hay fields I have learned the terrain well.  I have learned the gentle rise and fall of the fields, which fencerows harbor deer and wild turkey, which old fence lines have the eye-popping dogwoods and are not to be missed and which fence lines have fall persimmons that must be avoided by beagles.  In the spring I know my boots and jeans will be damp from the dewy first-growth hay, that the beagles will come home soaked and most likely full of ticks.  In the summer we know to watch for hornet’s nests in the swells of the grass hay.  In winter we can plow through the fields unhindered, tickled by the shadows of the bare bones of trees revealed by long shafts of winter sunlight.

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I take all of this in and it gives me my bearings.  I know where I am in the hemisphere based on the slant of the sun in the sky, the look of vegetation, the peeping of spring frogs and the chuckle of wild turkeys.  And I must not forget the night skies.  Here the skies are dark and reveal a carousel of constellations, some of which I know but most of which I don’t.  The fireflies in summer are breathtakingly spectacular as they bridge the starry skies with the trees and I have learned to watch for them in the grass when I am walking at night so as not to step on them.  At night, as the crickets chirp away, I often think of the horses out in the fields covered in an inky blanket of stars just like their ancestors and mine, and the thought comforts me to the point of sleep.

I have learned this place by moving through it, experiencing it in every season.  The daily walks have never become dull; rather, I feel as though I can never be sated by the experience, like I can’t be outside long enough, that there is just too much ever-changing scenery to digest.  I never find walks to be tiring (but thankfully, the beagles do) and instead I return home rejuvenated and also relaxed and very reluctant to do anything that will alter that mood.  I feel deprived when life’s demands keep me out of the fields.

What have I gained from the relationship with this geography?  I think it is a sense of peace brought on by familiarity, the sense of connection one gets from being a caretaker, and certainly I find comfort in the daily routine.  There is a gentle rhythm to stable life and that is what I find most fulfilling.

Yes, I love this place.

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2 thoughts on “Geography And Other Loving Relationships

  1. I don’t understand how people can live in a place and never walk in that place–and yet it’s so common for people to never experience their geography, that it has become normal. I’ve recently lived in 3 different landscapes, and wherever I am, I WALK, A LOT. Because of that, I quickly become more familiar with a new area than most of the people who have lived there for 20 years–I see things they don’t see.

    Before that, I lived for 10 years in a place that resembles yours (mine was in New Hampshire). I loved that place profoundly, but left it to be near my grandparents during their last year on earth. Now I’m taking what I learned from that time in that special place everywhere I go on earth — I learned, as you described, to always be in relationship to my geography. Whether it’s a new or a familiar place, I get my bearings, notice the sun and pay attention to the daily and seasonal changes going on, listen to the creatures (not impossible to do in a city, but a bit trickier), watch the night sky….

    I’m finding there is always something to love about a place.

    • My parents seemed to want to dominate the outdoors (they even used a lawn service to kill dandelions – yikes!) and I worry that their generation maybe didn’t value that connection with their landscape. Even that term “landscape” means something more artificial and small scale these days. I so enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for stopping by.

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