Sand robins. Dolphin calling. Nutria tracking. Bunny watching. Natural magic in a natural place – magic that’s not really magic because it’s all right there when we’re quiet and still enough to take it in.
After arriving by boat to Horn Island, once our group unloaded all the gear to put together the kitchen area, I grabbed my backpack and hiked about 3/4 of a mile down the beach to set up my tent. This is my fourth trip to the island and I have a tradition of finding my own distant and secluded spot for plenty of alone time. I set up my cozy tent – just enough room for me and my gear with a beautiful A-frame view of the Gulf of Mexico, past the wide beach and sandy dunes.
I had two books with me – Martha Beck’s Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – Reclaim your True Nature to Create the Life you Want, and The Wild Within, by Paul Rezendes. How perfect – both books recommend stillness and oneness with animals as part of a path to our own healing and discovery of our true selves.
So I wandered beyond my tent and followed trails of critters over and around the underbrush, until they would disappear into a lovely thicket, or a broad grassy patch. The animals have their favorite paths – there were plenty of popular trails crisscrossing the island.
That evening, after the sun went down past the lone tree I use to help me find my camp, and after a delicious gumbo dinner and fire back at the main camp and a silent starlit walk back to my spot, I curled up in my tent and read.
I read about “The Team” – a term Martha uses for people all over the planet who are beginning to have some sense of a larger mission, even if they don’t yet know exactly what it is. People who are interested in some kind of transformation for humanity – people who have a sense that something good is really possible for the future of our planet and our species. People with a lot of empathy, creativity, love for animals, and a connection to the natural world. People who love people but also feel the need for solitude. People who want to see less suffering. I think that describes an awful lot of humanity, and that’s the point! We’re on the team!
Martha believes that through four paths – wordlessness, oneness, imagination and forming, we can create the wild and precious life we were each meant to live, and when we do that, we won’t only see benefits for ourselves, but we’ll proceed to heal the world – not to be too hyperbolic, but why not? What’s so fantastic is that she shares these methods with a lovely mix of science, story and humor. And what she describes really seems possible.
I woke up after a dream-filled night to a foggy pink morning. I hiked to the main camp for omelets and hot chocolate and chatted with the other campers (about 20 of us.) Most folks were planning to spend the day taking long walks to one end of the island or another. I considered my options as I walked down the beach, to my cozy camp.
I arrived at my tent to find a flock of robins – robins! – feeding in the dune plants. I watched them in quiet amazement, and dropping into wordlessness, walked closer. Eventually they scattered off, and I went to the tent to take care of some chores. I packed snacks, books, a journal and my favorite backpacking chair, and stepped out to find a flock of boat tailed grackles where the robins had been. Quietly and wordlessly, I watched. And the birds went about their business, ignoring me.
A few minutes later one came up over a dune within a couple of feet of me and was surprised, I think, to see me there! My surprise popped me out of wordlessness and he flew off, startling the flock into moving with him.
I felt quiet, still, connected and at peace. Then I looked up and a great blue heron glided past, not fifteen feet from my head! My heart opened and filled with gratitude. I stayed in one spot much of the day, just being. Without any agenda at all.
The next morning, before sunrise I wandered the dunes quietly enough to see rabbits – hopping, still – even stretched out and bounding a little! They seemed to be doing their own thing, not paying attention to me, zipping in and out of thickets.
Then I walked down to the beach to watch the sun come up over the water, and to see if I could call some dolphins. The trick is to reach out to them and then drop any attachment of them coming. I gave it a shot. Pelicans glided so close to the water’s surface that they sometimes dipped their wings in it. Dowitchers strolled elegantly along the surf line. And then, there they were, their fins curving through the waves. Dolphins!
Yes, they’re common, and no, they might not have come to see me specifically, but it was plenty magical for my morning. And it felt expansive and simple all at once. I realized it was New Year’s Day and it didn’t matter to me at all. In that moment I didn’t need special events marking the passing of time. I was just present. No resolutions, no plans, no future-thinking. Just breathing, watching the dolphins’ fins arc rhythmically along the horizon.
And eventually I walked up the beach to find my fellow humans and feast on pancakes, promising myself as I crossed the great blue heron’s tracks to take time for wordlessness and oneness every day, as much as possible, in as many ways as possible.
Want to join me on the journey? Click on the coaching goodies tab above and come join my virtual book club where we’ll discuss and play with all kinds of fun techniques in Martha’s new book. You don’t have to get the book to join the club – there will be plenty to talk about and try for both those who are reading it and those who just want to jump into the fray anyway! And if you’re in the NOLA area, come join me on January 21 in the swamp for my first monthly Wordless Walk! Who knows what we’ll encounter?