I heard the tiniest rustle behind me on the trail. A passing impression slipping between thoughts. It happened a second time and then quickly, a third. I turned and inspected my heel to see if something had stuck to my shoe. A couple of leaves sharing a small branch caught my eye, summersaulting along behind me, fueled by the breeze, or so it seemed. They tumbled up to me, just a few feet away and stopped. I paused. I looked. I suddenly wondered and said from my heart, “I’m sorry I can’t see you more fully…but I see you.” I stood, mesmerized, tears filling my eyes. As I continued to gaze with curiosity and longing, the little leaves began to tremble there at my feet, as if to say, “We’re new at this…” “Me, too,” I replied.
The very next morning on the trail, I was revisiting a conversation I’d recently had with a woman I’ve worked with for perhaps 20 years. A professional relationship that has softened over time. We found ourselves laughing at some colorful words that were coming out of our mouths. I always welcome free speech and pointed out that I’d never heard her swear before. “I hope I’ve never offended you.” I said, thinking of the raw language I sometimes use. She assured me, I had not, but it saddened me to think she perhaps had suppressed aspects of herself with me, in the name of appropriate, for all these years. As I continued my walking meditation, I pondered the totality of what I was feeling...the burden of this constant displacement of our authentic selves whether to meet the ideals of others or ourselves. I was considering the possibility that it might be possible to just, simply, let it all go.
Suddenly a loud crack echoed through the trees. Startled, my eyes flew to see a towering tree falling. The crack was followed by a slow moan, interwoven with the sound of crumbling ancient wood, until it hit the ground in a tangled heap, a surprisingly quiet landing for a timber of its size. There was a respectful hush, followed by a sense of long-awaited relief in the air.