Since retiring and moving to Oregon I’ve taken up hiking, and I’m out there a lot. Sometimes even when it rains. I enjoy it immensely.
The forests of the Pacific Northwest are amazingly peaceful, and it’s not uncommon to hike for hours and miles without hearing, seeing, or smelling anything related to humanity, other than the path you’re on or the stuff you’re wearing. In many respects it’s quite freeing to not be bothered by the details of daily life for a while. It allows one time to think and ponder uninterrupted. About anything.
Not surprising, I frequently think about forest life. Even when you can’t see it, it knows you’re there. The forest is it’s home, plants and animals alike, and I try to respect what that means, including that I am the intruder and am considered dangerous by those who hide in the shadows or keep their distance. For some of nature’s residents, I might also be seen as food. I try not to forget that.
For the great majority of life, survival is continually demanding. While many of us humans spend much of the time in climate-controlled environments with a snack no further than the fridge, the rest of life are out there, day and night, in the rain, in the cold, doing the best they can. I sometimes imagine what it might be like, every minute worrying about the next meal, keeping warm, and the need to stay safe. It’s always a quick reminder of how fortunate we are. I also believe they are WAY tougher than us. They need to be.
One morning a short time ago I explored a section of undeveloped land that is bordered on three sides by town. Even so, it is large enough that I managed to wander four miles while only seeing two other people. In one area I was surprised to come across two small sites where some homeless folks must spend their nights. The shelters consisted only of small patched-up tents and tarps slung over tree branches. Once again, I felt like an intruder, and I thought about that existence. How hard it must be, constantly worrying about food, shelter, and safety. And regardless of what we may think about the homeless or how they got there, it dawned on me that in many respects those people need to be way tougher than the rest of us, and they just might deserve some respect for that.