A friend and I went backpacking recently. As we were pitching our tents on the first night, I was thinking ahead to what would come the next day when a wise cedar tree told me, “Keep your head in your feet.”
Our feet cannot get ahead of where we are. The interior of our heads, on the other hand, can and do travel to the most distant circumstances we can imagine, visiting scenes that will most likely never occur.
Imagination is an incredible gift. Unfortunately we often don’t use it wisely, conjuring up catastrophes or arguing passionately for things we may not really need to convince anyone of. At least I do.
No single day works out as we planned it, but our feet are always present, connected firmly to the Earth in each moment as it unfolds in reality.
In a poetry reading from the On Being Gathering, John Paul Lederach, describes “haiku attitude” as a combination of joy and patience, a way “to prepare yourself to be touched by beauty.” Lederach works in conflict resolution around the world and must have found beauty in some of the most difficult situations. What a life-changing openness that would be.
Our trip did not go exactly according to plan. We didn’t reach the lake we were aiming for. On the way out, we somehow missed the swimming holes we both remembered seeing on the way in.
Yet the trip was full of beauty—the strawberry milkshake smell of the Jeffery pines (thanks, Dad, for teaching me that one), the flow of deep and attentive conversation, a cascade of different colors of light on the granite as the sun set, the sound of the creek that was our constant companion, the full moon shining on a still spot in the water and lighting up the campsite so brightly we could move around without headlamps.
These are the moments we can miss if we’re projecting ourselves mentally through the world instead of walking through it. These and every moment are the ones worth letting ourselves be touched by.