"Taking a little food, a light walking-stick,
I wander up to my home in quiet mystery,
the path along streams winding far away
onto ridgetops, no end to this wonder at
slow waters silent in their frozen beauty
and bamboo glistening at heart with frost,
cascades scattering a confusion of spray
and broad forests crowding distant cliffs.
Thinking it’s moonrise I see in the west
and sunset I’m watching ablaze in the east,
I hike on until dark, then linger out night
sheltered away in deep expanses of shadow.
Immune to high importance: that’s renown.
Walk humbly and it’s all promise in beauty,
for in quiet mystery the way runs smooth,
ascending remote heights beyond compare.
Utter tranquility, the distinction between
yes this and no that lost, I embrace primal
unity, thought and silence woven together,
that deep healing where we venture forth."
-- Hsieh Ling-yun (385-433), from Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, David Hinton, translator, New Directions Books (2005)
* * * * *
There are many reasons why we hike, of course. Each of us would probably have a somewhat different list of what’s most important and most gratifying to us.
Some of us especially value the exercise. For others it’s nature’s beauty. And almost everyone appreciates the opportunities to relax and unwind from stress.
Can we imagine what it would be like to lead a totally stress-free life? Is that an absurd fantasy? Some stress does seem to come with the territory of being alive.
But we’ve also created a world that now seems to be overloaded with stress, including ever-more complicated problems, frustrations, and challenges.
Most of us would agree that we need to “get away from the fray” as often as possible. That’s one reason why some people chose to live in the country.
Others of us, wherever we happen to live, allot some weekend time for hiking, communing with nature, and unwinding as fully as possible from “manic living.”
As most of you know, the natural world can be one of the most healing realms on earth. Spending time there almost always brings stress levels down several notches.
And if we have the right clothing and attitude, even colder temps or inclement weather aren’t likely to interfere with our ability to relax and unwind in nature.
-- Charlie Cook