Walking my usual route along the Huckleberry Trail this morning I suddenly found myself in the midst of a herd of towering, leafy forest elephants. Maybe my brain was processing memories from a trip to South Africa a couple of months ago but every tree trunk on either side of the blacktop trail morphed into pachyderm legs and trunks, and I became a playful, protected youngster weaving in and out of the columned citadel they created.
It wasn’t technically a be-here-now experience but I was definitely in a flow state — completely absorbed in the timeless moment, energized and calm but slightly disoriented. It was as if the world had wobbled on its axis and I tumbled into one of the thin places of Celtic mythology, where two worlds normally existing at a distance wander into close proximity… in this case, the Eastern Cape of South Africa superimposed onto the New River Valley of southwestern Virginia.
Shortly after I made the commitment to pay attention on these twice-daily walks through the same familiar terrain, I began to understand it’s never really the same place from one day to the next, or even from morning to evening. Each excursion reveals a plant I hadn’t notice before, may not have been there before, or an animal I hadn’t know was living there…that’s been a delight but not a surprise. I knew when you take the time to look closely you’re bound to see more clearly. That was one of the reasons I undertook this mindfulness goal.
What I wasn’t expecting — never gave it much thought, really — is that each day’s experience is new, in part, because I am not the same from one day to the next, from morning to evening. So it did come as a surprise during this morning’s walk to travel the same route and yet end up in a new place.
I guess Proust was right, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”