Translations of Wilderness (Aram)

Aram and the July 15th Pleasant Mountain crew.

Aram and the July 15th Pleasant Mountain crew.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot since starting my work with Renewal in the Wilderness, especially this year, is how to articulate the value of wilderness experience to the people we aim to renew and to our wider community of partners. How do I translate my experience of finding serenity and inspiration from the natural world into language that speaks to and connects with others in the context of their life experience? How do we as an organization frame wilderness engagement in a way that fits the needs and capacities of the care providers we aim to serve? This is a dynamic set of questions that I return to regularly. (Similar to the question posed here.)

Last Saturday Fiona and I guided a small group from our Beauty Walk community on a day-hike following the blue-blazed trail to the blueberry-speckled summit of Pleasant Mountain. We paused at the summertime trickle of water that falls through the Needle’s Eye crevice partway up the mountain. Fiona passed out several haikus by Matsuo Basho that we each read in turn. We read translations of the poetry. Fiona read them back to us in their original Japanese. At the summit we composed haikus of our own, articulating something of our experience on the mountain that day into a few breaths of poetry. 

Few things have had a more profound effect in my life than the experience of walking sensitively with others in the wilderness - hearing their reflections, seeing their expressions, sensing their connections. For me, sharing a trail, a stream, a way in the wild is poetry in the flesh. A sort of material spirituality. It’s hard to explain. I love it.

Playful and Particular Wonder

Playful and Particular Wonder

Up on the Eastern Promenade last Saturday morning we went looking for contrasts. The wind was biting at the top of the walk, and the air all but still once we reached the shoreline. The beauty of the water was marked by intermittent caps of white before us, and the buzz of the city held fast in its concrete over our shoulders. The chaos of our work and world back home was punctuated by the calm of the moment at hand.

We Do Not Shine in Vain

We Do Not  Shine in Vain

In the middle of Baxter Woods in Portland there is a ring of benches that invite passersby to come, sit and reflect. At our Beauty Walk yesterday we did just that. In fact we followed the impulse of the trees around us and we circled the woods three times, returning to the center ring between subsequent jaunts, to reflect on a portion of Aldo Leopold’s tale of the “Good Oak” in A Sand County Almanac.