Losing the Self in the Land

Hetch_Hetchy_Side_Canyon,_I,_by_William_Keith,_c1908Water pours down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in a series of steps, and recently I trekked alongside it for five days. As if on a prolonged walking meditation, I spent the time by myself, simply walking, listening, and watching. Sometimes the water thundered next to me as it plunged over falls or cascaded down tilted pans of granite. Other times it purred, almost silent, as it meandered through flat valleys forested with a mix of broadleaf trees and pines. Walls of gray rock soared upward on either side, as far above me as the rim of the ‘true’ Grand Canyon above the Colorado River. In this deep chasm, I felt both held and dwarfed as I wandered along.

I feel something similar in my human body: held by biology and dwarfed by complexity. How little I know of the cellular activity within my tissues. How unfamiliar I am with the moment-by-moment flow of materials, electricity, and information through my form. Yet somehow all that lively motion offers me this quality of humanness, this experience of a man on Earth. My little named being, with its self-important identity, paces the organic landscape of organs, muscle, and bone with the same lack of ownership and control that it felt alongside that arterial water pulsing from the craggy mountains toward the broad, distant sea.

Caught as I am in all this flow, there seems little choice but to surrender to the turmoil of fluidity, to the tumble of molecules and the whirling change all around. And in that letting go my fingers release everything small and vulnerable. They connect, like the growing tips of roots, with a wet, breathing world, supportive and nourishing, vast and embracing.