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Walking Into It


There’s a silent war brewing over control of my day. My Should-Dos are battling my Want-Tos over rights to the day’s ToDos. It’s just a typical Saturday for me when neither side of the conflict is forced into action by impending deadlines.

First battle: Should I go for a walk? Do I Want to?

I step outside to see which side will win. Often, the feel of fresh air pushes Should over to the side of Want. Not this time. I step back inside and get distracted by some other shiny object in avoidance of both.

An hour later, I test myself again. This time, I take out the garbage, clearly more an act of guerilla arbitration than necessity. Back indoors, I sit down to several Shoulds at my desk.

Hours later it comes, the undeniable spark of inspired impulse. No hesitation, I’m going— sneakers tied, sweatshirt on, phone and tissues in pocket.

I walk in the park near me. I love its hills, trails and especially its streams when they run in full-symphonic force over the bedrocks. I bypass that cutoff in favor of straight downhill to the lake; straight until I have to make the choice. There are two paths, one on either side of the lake. Each time I am here, I allow my instinct to respond to the pull of one over the other. The path on the left is usually sunny as it curves through open air on the way to the small beach. Today, I am drawn to the one on the right— the dirt path that runs between the dramatic rise of boulder-embedded earth on one side and the tree-and-brush-lined lake on the other. This route offers the soft and satisfying crunching sound of my soles on the stony dirt, in contrast to the slapping sound they make against blacktop on the other side.

On this path there is a tree . . . I think it’s the oldest; it is the most imposing which is why I often stop to lean against it. Or, if no one is around, I hug it. Yes, I do. I laugh at myself when I do, because years ago when I first heard about tree hugging, I thought it was ridiculous. Back then, I couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing, now I do.

I notice and delight that there are at least 150 geese floating on the lake. I have never seen this many here.

I reach a bend in the path where the vegetation parts, giving me a clear view of the lake and geese. With what seems like the orchestration of my next few steps, there comes the sound of honking— a few of their voices. A few more steps, and more voices join in. The dissonance increases steadily as the numbers of their voices grow. Loud and unmistakably urgent their calling becomes frantic and as wild as my anticipation. I recognize this cacophony as their magical organizing communication— the signal that they are about to take off! I am awestruck and envious at the mere idea of it.

Just then, I notice a family, a Mom, Dad, son about eight years old, and their little dog coming toward me. We pass on the narrow path. I cannot contain my excitement; I call out after them. “They’re about to take off,” I say, gesturing towards the birds. “That’s the noise they make when they are ready to go.” My voice is electrified with excitement; yet, they dismiss me without even glancing back at me or in the direction of the geese. I am incredulous. I cannot understand. They are not deaf, I heard them speaking to each other. How could anyone ignore the resounding honking, even without knowing what is about to occur?

I refocus on the geese. I am riveted watching their wings flap and splash against the water at the same frenzied pitch of their calls, and of my heart. The energy builds and I am anxious knowing that regardless of the intensity of my attention, I will be unable to take in enough of the next few seconds to satisfy my hunger for what I will witness . . . and it begins. The leader rises and the rest move to follow with power-lifting intensity. They levitate, wings pumping sprays of water on air. The small lake necessitates their swift, sharp rise above the whitened water and over the trees just beyond. I hold my breath as if in doing so I can add energy to their lift. I am mesmerized by how quickly they create form from frenzy. In less than a minute, all that remains is their undulating formation rising in the distance, and the sound of their victorious callings still audible over the crest of the hills.

The elegance and power of nature in action, so far beyond my own humanity slays me every time. Tears of witnessing Majesty flow. I stand transfixed for several minutes to soak in my emotions and the experience.

When I walk on, I see that half of the geese are still floating in the lake. I am guessing they will leave soon, too. If they do, I will attempt to capture it on video. I couldn’t compromise the experience the first time in having to watch on my cellphone screen.

I am further down the path, when the calling begins again. My pulse rises to the flurried beat of their sounds. I steady myself so I can center them and the track of their liftoff in my cellphone screen. I follow their magnificence!

Once gone, I look down to replay the video and I see I have forgotten to hit the record button. I am sad, but not surprised. I do this more often than not, and have to forgive myself, again.

On the way back, it hits me. Had I not engaged in the war between Should and Want; had I forced myself earlier, or ignored the impulse when it came, I would have missed the entire spectacle. I am reminded that this is evidence of subtle and often overlooked guidance I know to be my intuition, something I am coming to trust more each day.

On the way back, I hug the tree.

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