Reflections on stillness

Accounts of times in which someone has had a spiritual momment or felt they were communing or were one with nature. Experiences that elicited a strong emotional response or moment of gestalt.

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Don
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And 'stillness', on reflection...

Post by Don » Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:10 pm

Gaines/Steve/Ed/James/Bob-
While I no longer can easily lay my hands on a digital version (or the hardcopy, for that a hard copy version), I have in my mind an image I captured years ago on a hike in the Caribou WIlderness in Northeastern California. It was in the Fall, with quaking aspen leaves on the ground and late enough that they were mostly shades of brown, lending a mottled appearance to the ground. Walking along the edge of a shallow pond, the sepia-toned mottled leaves continued underwater, intermixed with similar toned rounded stones lining the pond. The pond's surface was absolutely still and reflective, mirroring the undersides of the nearby leafless aspens across the pond...also in hues of grays and browns. While there is a confusion of images, with the surface foreground fully in focus and the somewhat blurred but mirrored wintry aspens, the mood I see most often in those viewing it is reflective, pensive.
Another image, imaginary in my own mind but I'm sure there are many photographically talented fisherman who've captured it by camera, is a calm reflective lake surface interrupted by the gentle rising of a fish, causing ripples to expand across the once still lake. Movement, but natural, expected, understood, okay, and definitely puts me in a reflective mood...so it seems that there is something right about the 'natural' order of things, events we see in wilderness settings. I think the Japanese in their various religions arrive at this even in urban settings of their own design.
I am attaching an image that is on this sunny day in Yellowknife, jarringly wintry...it was taken along the Chester Creek Trail in the middle of bustling Anchorage on a segment of it's Urban Trail System. Yet, there is something 'stilling' about winter's snow, and I assure you the scene was as quiet as it looks, still enough for the latest snow to have softly accumulated on thin branches...
January2006DonAKtrip 008.jpg
And from another view...
January2006DonAKtrip 016.jpg
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by gnmcmartin » Sun Sep 12, 2010 3:15 pm

Stillness seekers:

Getting away from a psychological/philosophical idea of what stillness of mind may involve, and following up on Don's post:

I have no picture, and really there couldn't be one--maybe there could have been a moving picture. I had a "stillness" experience one time that still is with me. It was early morning at my timberland in winter. The air was absolutely "dead calm." A relatively light snow was falling. Now what was amazing was that each and every flake was exactly the same size and was falling at exactly the same rate. Now that seems simple enough, and you may say, "so what?" Well,Ii have been a lover and observer of snow all my life and I never before or since saw anything like it. There was a stillness over everything and all these flakes the same size falling at exactly the same rate--with no wind at all, not even a "drift" of air--made a special kind of stillness "in motion," or a stillness intensified in some kind of paradoxical way.

Another experience of a kind of stillness in snow that I will always be able to see in my mind, was among the giant sequoias in Sequoia Park. Snow was falling very gently, but fairly heavily. Again with no wind. But there was a "drift" of air. So slight a drift, you couldn't nomally see it. But standing under one of these great massive trees with their crowns 250 feet high or more, you could see clearly the line where the falling snow was blocked by the crown of the tree high above. Move one foot and you were in the snow, move one foot back, and you could see the line of the falling snow missing your nose by a foot. Then, very slowly as the air drifted just a bit, the "snow line would move a foot, then maybe two, and then three feet away from me. And then, just as slowly, back again. I stood under that great tree, looking up, looking out, for a long time, watching the border of the falling snow move slowly one way, then another, in the otherwise imperceptable drift in the air.

--Gaines

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by gnmcmartin » Sun Sep 12, 2010 5:09 pm

All this has got me going. Let me tell you of another kind of stillness expereince.

Many years ago when I lived in LA and was taking backpacking trips into the Sierra, two friends and I, in early May, backpacked from Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park to a kind of commercial camp area known as Bearpaw Meadow. It was long before the season opened, so we didn't expect to see anyone there.

The hike was something like 12 miles long, mostly along the south facing upper slope of Kaweah Canyon. It was sunny, moderately warm, and the trail was mostly dry--just a few patches of snow left. But as we got close to the "camp" the trail was choked by snow so deep it covered up the blazes on the trees. It was all fogged in and we had to guess where we were going. By luck, struggling through the snow, we found the camp, and there was a kind of pavilion at the edge of the canyon. There was a bit of a roof and all the snow right there had melted.

We had carried heavy packs will all kinds of gourmet foods, and in the cold fog set about having a nice dinner, etc. Finally it got dark, and we all went to sleep. Then at about 2 a.m. all three of us woke up, for some reason, at the same time. What we saw I am sure is still living with all of us and always will. The fog had settled down far into the valley/canyon. There was a full moon above. Nothing I can describe here will give you any idea of what we saw. To the south/west were the still completely snow covered higher peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains rising above us--absolutely shimmwering in the moonlight. Far, far below, the fog was laying, pure shimmering white in the canyon. Between the high mountains above, and the shimmering fog below was the dark forest on the slopes ridges of the canyon, descending to be lost in the pure white, with occasional little island peaks sticking up through. And, faintly, rising up, was the sound of rushing water--a kind of quietness made audible. All on a truly immense scale--white--still--quiet, except for the faint sound fo the rushing water so very far below. This was the true sublime, as Wordsworth describes it. Nothing less, and I suspect, maybe a bit more. We all stayed awake for a long time.

--Gaines

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James Parton
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by James Parton » Sun Sep 12, 2010 7:44 pm

Gaines,

You got me thinkin' of the stillness of a winter forest, that is on the rare day the wind isn't blowing. At one time I thought the winter forest was sort of depressing. Everything looking sort of dead. But over the years I have became more " in tune " with winter forests. Their " life force " can be felt, even though not as strongly as summer and looking closer you come to realize the forest as in a state of hibernation. Spending time in the forest in the winter months staves off the " winter blahs " as well. ENTS has had a big part also in how I have came to look at forests. I pay closer attention.

I can picture the snow-covered woods and falling snowflakes you speak of. It is a wonderful thought.

James
James E Parton
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New Order of Druids

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Don
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by Don » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:57 am

Gaines-
On a different note, do you still keep in contact with the two friends that joined you on that trip?
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by gnmcmartin » Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:28 am

Don:

Have I kept in touch with the two people I made that backpacking trip with? Mostly no. One was an engineering professor at UCLA and was a roommate of the other. The other and I were quite close for a number of years. But we have not had much, if any, communication since the last time I visited CA a number of years ago.

One thing I should have mentioned about the first of the snow expereinces I described above--I don't know why I didn't describe this aspect of it because it was the most remarkable thing about it. The snow was falling very gently, all the flakes exactly the same size and falling at the same rate: the effect, if you just let your mind relax a bit, was that the snow was not moving, and that everything else--the ground, the trees, and I--were all moving upward into it. Amazing! You can't get this effect in the usual snowstorm--it is all the flakes falling at exactly the same rate that made the illusion possible.

James:

I love to take walks in the woods during a snow. If the snow is really heavy, looking up, the tops of the trees are lost in it. A nice effect. Especially if there are tall hemlocks mixed in.

I love winter walks in the woods at any time, but if the snow is very deep, as it often is in the MD mountains, it can be hard to walk very far.

--Gaines

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James Parton
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Re: Reflections on stillness

Post by James Parton » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:49 am

Gaines,

Tall LIVING hemlocks. They are slowly becoming rare here in Western North Carolina.

JP
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Don
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Re: Reflections on stillness, in winter...

Post by Don » Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:01 pm

Gaines-
Re 'friends', I have been lucky to have kept with a half dozen backpacking friends through the years (most but not all, oddly enough, fraternity brothers), and there are many things we share, but few with as much depth of recall and affection as our many backpack trips together. While we've all gone on to widespread locations, careers, and levels of 'success', when we get together, we're still the same 25 year olds we remember each other as.

Back to winter, one of those friends and I very early on went to Yosemite Valley in the winter. You may have, as countless MILLIONS, visited Yosemite Falls, but it is a very different experience in winter...in certain conditions, when water leaves the landborn creek above and falls through the air, it is chilled enough that it turns into snow, and when there is little or no wind, the snow falls onto an ever growing cone at the bottom, appearing like a 'snowcone' without syrup...very granulated in texture, like sugar. Won't tell you how long ago it was, but I photographed it with a Voigtlander (spelling?) bellows-type camera that I'd found on an earlier backpacking trip...unfortunately that photo and another I treasured, didn't come out well, as the camera did have problems (I still have it, just recently rediscovered it!). The other image?

Despite numerous claims to the contrary (for one, Cumberland Falls), Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley on certain dates has a "moonbow" that manifests itself in a 'colorless' rainbow.
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

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