Boil Down, Simplify, Reduce, Harmonize, Normalize And Clarify The Complications

Recently I have been in a roller coaster car on the bottom dip of the long rail.

Recently I have found myself at the bottom of a canyon, moving up hard-scrabble ground to make it to a river amongst the trees.

Recently I have been spending time at the bottom of a large hole dug by very large tractors, and eyeing the dirt walls carefully.

That is to say, I have had the blues.

But in the last couple of days I have felt the occasional small upwelling of good feelings. The momentary wonder and pleasure of simple things. My appetites are returning to their normal charges. Music in the car is suddenly fresh and I feel good. I see people on the street and wonder at their lives.

I often spend time thinking about my camping gear, whether or not I have everything I truly need to make a simple trip with a minimum of weight and maximizing the usage of my gear. I guess we all have our obsessions at times. This morning I said to myself that I already have everything I need, and this was a sea-change. My job is to reduce and keep it simple.

“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly
with ease,
in mindfulness,
so not do any tasks with the goal
of getting them over with.
Resolve to each job in a relaxed way,
with all your attention.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

My next solo trip into the backcountry will be simple. The simplest of arrangements. No more gear. Shed the gear I don't need.

So to each of you, casual and dedicated readers alike, I ask that you examine ways to simplify your life. Write down one area of your life in which you can boil down, simplify, reduce, harmonize, normalize and clarify the complications. Once you have done this, write down a handful of specific steps that you can take in the next day to begin this crucial work. Then plan out something as a reward, once you have made the changes - I am certain it will be something you have been not doing because of the complications.

That's all.


How To Make Chili

This is how you make chili.

Walk down into a valley, with some nice trees and plants about.

Be sure to bring your dog.

Arrive at a riverbank.

Gather some driftwood sticks from about the sand and from within the woods nearby.

Break them into manageable sizes, and sort them by thickness.

Because it may be damp from a rain the night before, make sure you make a platform of dried sticks.

Use a piece of cotton wool to catch a spark from a ferrocerium rod.

Construct a pot hanger.

Put the chili over the fire.



Use a wooden spoon.


Watch a heron and a duck fly over head.

Go home.

The Quiet Places

The days have not come to expect that night would steal in and awaken me
far between the curtains of evening and the gates of dawn.
Streetcar locked into a track, feet stumble me into the living room,
window open, a bright moon waxing gibbous
reminding me I need to attend to the quiet places.

Saturday Morning Walk in the Woods

Yesterday morning I woke up and took Monty for a walk in the valley at the end of the park behind the house. He hasn't been down there yet, as I was waiting for him to be strong enough for a long walk. We made our way down the steep embankment, into the pathway that was gradually surrounded by ravine walls on either side. The chicken scratch wooden fence lined path became wilder and wilder until it was merely a trodden dirt path deeper into the valley. Car sounds vanished, to be replaced with the sound of birds, and Monty carefully followed me off leash as this was new territory to him. Voice commands helped him to stay to the path - "Hoi! This way! - hoop! This way!" and when I veered down towards the river, he bolted towards the river bank - finally getting his bearings.

Once on the wide river bank, which was covered in fine sand and stones, and small piles of finger-thick drift wood, and faced by a steep clay cliff eroded out from the high fields above, I sat down and watched the water flow by. I watched Monty explore and wade carefully into the rapids above the bank, and plop about in the shallows at the edge. He drank, we walked, he drank, he sniffed - this was good for a beagle.

I leaned over and stumbling about the stones and sand, gathering fistfuls of drift wood and piled them up right by the sand bank edge of the creek. Pulling out a pocketful of birch bark I had gathered on the way down, I withdrew my ferrocerium rod from my jacket and rolled the bark in my hands until it frayed and gathered in a fuzzy ball. A single draw of my knife across the rod sent sparks flying, and the birch bark was alight. I piled dried driftwood twigs and sticks into a tepee over the new flames. I laid out my jacket on the ground, sat down and watched the small fire burn.

A Spotted Sandpiper (I think) landed amongst the rapids and pecked about searching for grubs and bugs and minnows in the eddies at the top. Monty was very curious about this and launched himself as an introduction. Bird flew, and Monty paddled about investigating the minnow pools.

On the way back we were tromping up a hill covered in deep grass and cover when I smelled the smell of apple trees of my childhood. I looked up and the old orchard apple trees which had gone wild in the decades past showed their fruit pouring from laden branches. Red and small, they were perfectly ripe - the red extended deep into the meat of the fruit and I ate about 5 of them. Curved around other trees were wild grape vines - with purple grapes about the third of the size of a normal green grape. Each contained a single pip and I grabbed handfuls of these and snacked on them as we made our way up from the valley into the park again.

Monty trailed behind me in the park, under the hot sun, and every few feet I turned to see his progress. He eventually found a little shade by the baseball diamond and turned his back on me and sat down. He twisted his head around looking at me apologetically, or so it seemed. I clipped on his leash and we slowly made it the last block home.

A nice walk in woods - a great way to spend a Saturday morning.



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