Friday, November 3, 2017

Sit Spot

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I recently found a great little sit-spot on some big rocks in the mostly dry bed of Cataract Creek. It’s close to the trail, within earshot of passing hikers but out of sight behind the woods and walls of the ravine. There’s a small pool of water at the base of the rocks that the local birds know about, and if you sit still enough, a Pacific wren might skitter down for a drink just a few feet below you. Bigleaf maple, Doug fir, and tanoak make up most of the canopy, with hazel and huckleberry filling in some of the gaps on the forest floor. The space in between is fairly open, luminous in the morning sunshine, and the view from the sit spot gives the feeling of being suspended in that space.

Rippling unseen through the space was a placid soundscape of acorn woodpeckers cackling in the distance and an intermittent breeze breathing through the leaves overhead, all of which conspired to make me conscious of the atmosphere itself. If you think about it, the motion of gases in the air around us is as much a part of Earth’s fluid dynamics as the motion of water around fish in the ocean. And like the ocean, the fluid of our atmosphere isn’t composed of just one thing, but actually a myriad of different gas molecules, pollen grains, fungal spores, bacteria, and so on. The air actually has mass, or weight, and even hiking through it creates friction. With a little imagination you can picture yourself practically breast-stroking up the trail.

As you swim, think about the fact that while you are immersed in that sea of gas molecules, pollen grains, fungal spores, volatilized plant resins, and dust motes, that all of it is entering your body with every breath you take. Waves of light strike your skin and impart their warmth. Waves of sound strike into your ears and, like light entering your eyes, initiate a cascade of electro-chemical signals in your central nervous system, much of which rarely, if ever, escapes your subconscious realm. There is no sharp line dividing you from the atmosphere. In fact, there is no sharp line dividing you from everything that is.

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