There are times when I’m outdoors that things take on a heightened, almost piercing quality. My mind zooms in. The small cloud of buzzing insects above the water seems very important. The sight of the beaver dragging branches across the lake is almost poignant. The lamplight through dripping leaves seems intended for me.
I understand the meditative qualities of being outdoors, but this seems slightly different. It has nothing to do with my location, the length of the hike or paddle I’ve just taken, or the time of year. These times tend to be clustered during a period of days. (Maybe if I’d spent more time doing drugs in college I could explain it better, but I admit that I fell down on that job. Drugs always scared the hell out of me, mostly because I get addicted to things like peanut butter, for crying out loud. What would happen to me with a mind-altering substance?)
Anyway, I don’t care that I can’t name it. It happens, it comes, it goes, it happens again weeks or months later. Somewhere I’ve heard the phrase “ecstatic moment”*, and I suppose that comes the closest to describing it. But it’s not a mentally active thing. I don’t even really have a sense of breathing. The moment just etches itself on me.
These experiences have visited in the last few days. Maybe it’s been the beauty of an evening after spring showers, the excitement of finding a new place, or just that work is slow and I’m living comfortably in my right brain.
We got up early this morning and hiked out to the lakes. The coyotes were a no-show this time, but Thomas managed to flush an angry grouse. We followed a game trail around one of the lakes, which led us to a small field of beaver-chewed stumps, and a glimpse of the chewer herself dragging a well-leafed branch across the water. I admire the way they gnaw each tree to a sharp point. A beaver’s trademark.
Edited to add:
*Having just (in the last ten minutes) again picked up Louise Chawla’s “In the First Country of Places: Nature, Poetry, and Childhood Memory,” I can confidently say that book is the “somewhere” I heard that phrase, although she refers to “ecstatic experiences.”