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Sabbath Day – Meditation on the Move

June 1, 2019

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“Do not give credence to any thought that was not born outdoors
while one moved about freely – in which the muscles
are not celebrating a feast, too.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, who walked daily.

I used my Sabbath Day this week to continue my southbound walk along the AT in New Jersey. Fourteen-plus miles of gorgeous green woods, mountain lakes and moors, and grand summit vistas brought me from the offices of High Point State Park to Culver’s Gap. It was day of vivid contrasts and great beauty.

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I left my car at the trailhead on NJ23 at 6:50 AM and entered the woods. I immediately found a half-dozen deer holding the ridge above me. They watched me pass with all their attention but did not yield the high ground. The next half mile or so was the lushest fern forest I have ever seen. (Alas, no photos). The previous night’s rain and the rising sun created an elegant world of light and shadow with delicately changing patterns. Herbert Durand wrote his classic Field Book of Common Ferns to help people like me appreciate what he called the ‘natural treasures of the wild.’ It was a most auspicious beginning to my day.

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I took very few pictures but appreciated as many micro-changes in my day as I could – the moment when the early morning chatter of birds gave way to true birdsong, the protected cool air in hollows between mountain tops, the arrival of mosquitoes when the day began to warm, the great show given me by three startled turkey vultures, the sudden leap of a deer ten feet in front of me who either didn’t hear me coming or thought I was heading somewhere else. 

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The path was at times all stone, and often mud, then gave way to needles strewn and soft, only the a ridge run along solid slabs of rock. The temperature was in the mid-70s, but a week of rain left everything feeling damp and alive. It was the kind of day Robert Moor describes in his bestselling On Trails: An Exploration: “I inhaled the fir-sweet  air, exhaled fog. The forest gave off a faint chlorophyllic glow.” Nevertheless, I was kissed by the sun, uncomfortably so.

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Everything felt so alive. David Cooper refers to the way a walker constructs the world into a mysterious whole as ‘meditation on the move,’ an apt term for the engagement of body and mind in both constructing, deconstructing, and discovering the mystery at the heart of creation. All day I was engaged in such mediation, and it was joy.

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I had plenty of time to look up, to look down, to look all around, and to look inside.

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By lunch time I was in Culver’s Gap where the Mountain House Tavern and Grill for a well deserved local beer and bowl of homemade chile. Afterward I relaxed in a beach chair beside Kittatinny Lake (behind the Mountain House) while waiting for Mark, my Lyft driver, to take me back to my car. 

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Oh, Happy Sabbath.

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