Getting back to The Basics

By Mike Meyer
Sometimes we approach our leisure time like we do the rest of
our lives, in a hurry. Just getting somewhere fun usually involves
moving at high speed.
Going for a hike sounds good, maybe to unwind some, get back to
nature. In the country, finally, you skid into a parking spot,
throw the day pack on, and take off.
By Mike Meyer

Sometimes we approach our leisure time like we do the rest of our lives, in a hurry. Just getting somewhere fun usually involves moving at high speed.

Going for a hike sounds good, maybe to unwind some, get back to nature. In the country, finally, you skid into a parking spot, throw the day pack on, and take off. It’s beautiful, really, like a picture, though it’s not easy getting in tune with the flow of the woods when the rest of our lives are so disassociated from nature. Still, the water in that creek is clear and undulating, liquid silk; and there’s a rock, you love rocks, with yellow lichen. Geez, it seems to be calling you over (come here a minute! check me out, dude). But you’re a responsible person, and the fact is that you need to hit the next trail in an hour so you’ll be at the ridge by 12:30. Right? Otherwise, how are you going to be back to the car by 2:30, since at 3 you’re picking up the kids and at 5 you and the spouse are expected in Tracy. Sorry, creek. Sorry, rock.

Sorry, you.

The fast pace lures us on. And on.

An opportunity at Coe Park this spring might help ease the way into slowing down a bit, experiencing more in nature. The theme of this spring program is, “Basic Skills of Nature Observation.” It’s as much about getting into the flow of the woods, using skills we already possess, as it is about “observing” nature. It’s about coming into contact with the natural order and making connections.

Here’s a little preview, beginning with a few rules. No watches or cell phones will be allowed. They don’t work at Coe anyway. (The place has that effect.) No naming things and no analyzing things, like say the gallons per minute going over a waterfall. These are mind things – understanding comes from experiencing – and that’s what this outing is about.

We’ll practice a few skills perfected by the Native Americans. Visual skills will allow you to both witness more of the secrets of the earth and detect motion. Hearing skills will help you track nature’s symphony and help you blend into the flow of the woods. Skills involving the sense of touch will make you part of nature.

To touch an animal, or to allow oneself to be touched by an animal, can be a mystical experience, though it must be done with a sense of curiosity and respect. But it can be tricky because we have reservations about getting close to wild things. The touching skill will be practiced on simpler things, to learn what the touch of nature might be.

Moving undetected in the woods allows us to get closer to wildlife. Critters drink from springs and creeks, making them excellent places to wait. But you can’t just stroll up. By learning the stalk, you’ll be able to witness a fox passing by, or a deer and its fawn carefully taking a drink.

Basic Skills takes place on three Saturdays this Spring: April 30, May 14 and May 21. Each outing begins at 9am at the Henry Coe Visitor Center and moves about a mile away. Soft shoes, water and a half-day’s time are all that are required. Interested kids, 10 and older, are welcome.

Also, check out the Coe Web site, www.coepark.org, and look for Spring Events. There are many fascinating outings coming up: hikes across the ridges, canyons and creeks; wildflower, ecology, and bird walks; and much more.

Pick an outing that looks good, but watch out! You might find yourself spending more time checking out that lichen, or inspecting the inside of that wildflower, or sitting beside that creek flow to your heart’s satisfaction.

Mike Meyer is a Henry W. Coe State Park volunteer.

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