Tuesday mornings always feel a bit special to me. Lately, weekends have been taken up with Kivrin and homework, with brief breaks for a ride each day; unfortunately, that means no time for long weekend hikes. Mondays are completely booked up. It's Kiv's late start day, so I drop her off and go straight to work. With sunsets coming earlier and earlier, there's no time at the end of the day to even ride, let alone ride and walk. So Tuesday mornings, after I drop Kivrin off at school around 7:20, are the first day of the week that I get to visit my favorite trail.
I have been hiking on this trail now, week in week out, month after month, season after season, for years. Sometimes I'm there regularly, sometimes not. In the last few years though, I have gone at least once, and usually two or three times, a week. This consistency, coupled (I firmly believe) with my practice of mindfulness, has led to a feeling of deep intimacy with that particular place, an intimacy coupled with the joy of always, still and yet, finding something new to surprise and delight me.
I heard an interesting piece some time ago on NPR (you will see the relevance soon) about picky eaters. They interviewed, among other people, a psychologist who works with young people who are on the extreme end of that spectrum - one, for example, who would only eat one brand of frozen pizza for every single meal. Out of curiosity, she did the same thing for a month: the same kind of the same brand of the same frozen pizza - for every single meal of every single day, breakfast lunch and dinner. Now, what was interesting about this experience was that she found that she began to notice even tiny differences between these frozen pizzas - she was so attuned to that one experience that even little changes were magnified for her. It gave her some interesting insights into picky eaters - the more restricted their palates, the more likely they were to restrict their eating in some ways, because the differences with new foods were almost too intense.
I got to thinking a lot about that. When it creates an unwillingness to try something new, that level of attunement* is, I think, problematic. However, it also suggests, to me, a conclusion that I find quite lovely: that deep intimacy and knowledge has the potential to lead, not to boredom and stultification, but to an attunement that allows one to notice ever-smaller details. It means that the mundane has the ability to surprise and delight and teach, if we just pay careful and loving attention.
Which is how I feel about my connection to this little piece of place. There is always something new to notice, and a deep sense of comfort in greeting old friends and noticing how they change through the seasons and years.
This morning it was cold. Driving there, my car didn't think it was all that cold, but I well know that the trail itself, largely located in a little creek bed, tends to be anywhere from five to ten or more degrees colder than the surrounding area. As soon as I stepped onto the dirt, I could feel the cold air, settled along the trail, licking at my ankles; it felt to me like a visceral demonstration of the urban heat island effect. Because, while it was around 50 degrees in the parking lot, in the lowest part of the trail, the plants and earth were covered in frost.
There were fun surprises waiting for me on my walk, too:
Not to be outdone, one tree hung a leaf from a spider web, midair above the trail.
*Is attunement not a word? It's marked as misspelled, and the option I get when I ask is "atonement", which is not at ALL what I'm going for. If it's not, it ought to be. Therefore, I declare that it is.