A Celebration of Life and a Thanksgiving of Wonder
Download this Unreleased MP3 of Jim singing “I Walk In Beauty” in front of a fire in 2009
|Every day there is something that I experience that brings me joy, pauses me in wonder, amazes me in gratitude, thrills me in appreciation, and wraps me in beauty. This is a wonderful Earth we live upon. It is a miracle of Life we breathe.
While walking along the mountain ridges last summer (2008) I wandered constantly in beauty. The views were near constant. The flowers were prolific. Everywhere I turned my heart sang with the wonder of it all. One day as I pushed my way through shoulder high beargrass blooms I realized that I was not walking “thru” beauty, but rather walking “in” beauty. A song came to me that day. It went something like this:
I walk in beauty, I walk in beauty
I walk in wonder, I walk in wonder
I walk in harmony, I walk in harmony
I walk in grateful joy
I walk in beauty, I walk in beauty
|The song became my mantra. I sang it as I walked. I sang it when things got hard and I struggled to stay in the moment. I sang it when I reached the top of the mountain. And I sang it when I was at the bottom. I still sing it. It grounds me and has become a living prayer of Thanks. This page is a result of that song.
I want to share the beauty, the wonder, the heartfelt joy of what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel. In the days ahead I will use this page to post a variety of things. Stories, pictures, words, and thoughts. Each will share a moment of wonder. I’ll always have the most recent “beauty moment” posted item on top so you won’t have to scroll through the ones you’ve already seen. I hope you’ll enjoy these little treasures of life as much as I do.
|2-15-10 A moment along the beach in Rhode Island last Fall….|
|8-24-09 One of the most special moments of my recent trek in Nevada was climbing up a steep mountainside in the Ruby Mountains. I didn’t have a trail or a topo map, and I knew I had to hit the right saddle in the ridge in order to be able to descend to Verdi Lake on the opposite side. It was a very steep ascent, but very doable. I just had to take my time and huff and puff my way upward. I could see where I wanted to go, but wasn’t sure if that was the right place or not. If it wasn’t, I was in for some hard traveling.
Finally, after a couple hours, the slope began to level off and I scrambled across the last boulders as I reached the high saddle between two peaks. I looked back at the canyon below me thinking, “I’m glad I came up that because I sure as hell don’t want to have to go DOWN it!!” Then I walked over to the other side to see if there was a lake below me.
|5-30-09 Yesterday morning as I walked along some of the trails behind Mount Helena, I took a detour and dropped into a swale off the trail. The pine needles crunched and I tried hard not to crush any of the many arrowhead balsamroot blooms that seemed to be everywhere. I found a faint deer trail and started following it, and found something I’d been looking for since I got home a couple weeks ago…a deer antler. Such a treasure. And such a beautiful, graceful thing. I picked it up and ran my fingers over the sleek tips, and then the rough button. I thought about the buck who dropped his antler here. I wondered where he was and how he’s doing…and if he ever gets excited upon finding human fingernails?!!!|
|5-23-09 I love the farmers market here in Helena. It is such a mix of color and sounds and smells. And joys…… Today there was a little girl about 6 or 7 playing the fiddle while her Dad backed her up on the guitar. She was cute. She was good. And it appeared she had been doing it for a while in her young life. It was almost as if she expected the reaction from the many folks who stopped to listen and smile, and then toss a buck into her case. And I did, too.
But then on the other end of the market I came upon another little girl, also playing the fiddle. She looked to be about 8 or 9, wasn’t quite as cute as the other girl, not as good on the fiddle, and certainly didn’t have the crowd as the other one. But I stopped to listen and will never forget her look when I clapped. It was such a soulful appreciation, and such a look of joy that someone liked what she had done. Her smile radiated up to the sky and back, like the sun coming out from behind a storm cloud. I stayed for another couple songs just so I could catch that look again and again.
I’ll remember this day. Maybe not the first little girl with her Dad, but definitely the joy from the face of that second girl who gave me a smile to carry home with my fresh lettuce and cabbage.
|4-7-09 This spring morning in Massachusetts the clouds were dripping to the ground. It was cold and a few flurries of snow came and went with the drizzle of rain. But I needed to get out and feel that freshness, the cold, the wet, the smell of the dampened Earth, and I set off up the Appalachian Trail. It was a wonderful walk, but there was a moment on the way back that I will hold dear. I was walking slowly through the plantation of overgrown white pines; big, tall straight trees that coat the ground with thick carpets of needles. The air had been still, but a gust came rushing and bustling through the forest. It seemed noisy and out of place and I turned in its direction. A gasp of awe punched out of me. I hadn’t noticed it before, but two small beech trees, their leaves still hanging on from last fall, seemed to glow in the rainy light of the forest. The opaqueness of the leaves appeared to radiant a light of their own. Amidst the towering dark trunks around them they were a light that shone into me. I had walked right by those trees but hadn’t “seen” them until the gust of wind turned me around.
As I continued my morning walk every little thing seemed sacred: the drops of water hanging off a bare limb like sparkles of life, the dull lavender of lichen on a dead tree, the old stone wall with its fire of neon green moss. My steps became my prayer. How do you say thanks to the wind?
|1-29-09 Nowadays, on the great plains there are often miles and miles of plowed fields, fenced pastures, and neatly sectioned property lines. All signs of an ordered, domesticated land. But I like to look for those little pockets of wildness, patches of forest in a steep-sided draw, a remnant of wetland tucked in the lee of a distant rise, a reminder of the prairies in an unturned field, or just a dense tangle of brambles next to the highway. These little glimpses of wild nature are often invisible to us as we going rushing by, but once noted and celebrated, they start to leap out and rejoice in our consciousness. Their beauty touches me. It is not a vast, spectacular, in-your-face kind of beauty, but one of subtle persistance that I welcome with open eyes.|
|1-26-09 Last summer as I walked northward along the Idaho/Montana state line, I was blessed with the fact that it was a peak year for Beargrass. It was just about everywhere; in the meadows, on the peaks, in the understory of the forests, and even on rock talus slopes. It is a beautiful plant, and all stages of its bloom are stunning. Sometimes it was hard for me to make any headway because I was constantly gawking at the white plumes dotting the landscape. On some days my shirt and shorts would be covered with pollen from walking through the dense stands of flowers. I took dozens of pictures, but this one captures the delicate glow they have at just that certain stage in their growth.|
|11-20-08 Back in October I was driving through Connecticut taking the back roads, when I happened by a house with the most beautiful scene. A young father was busy raking the leaves into a huge pile. Nearby, his wife was tumbling in that pile of leaves with their little toddler. The baby sat there looking happy, waving arms and smiling, while the Mom ducked under the leaves and popped up throwing leaves into the air and showering the child with tons of love with each leaf that drifted down. I smiled through and through as I drove by and wished I could have stopped and joined in!!!|
|11-12-08 Last week I visited Rebersburg Elementary in Rebersburg, PA. I did the concert and then visited classrooms. I was talking with the kindergartners and asked them what they would put in their backpacks if they were going on a long hike. What would they need to survive? One by one they told me sleeping bag, food, tent, water, etc. And then one little boy raised his hand. He said, “A song”.|
|11-8-08 Yesterday I watched a sycamore leaf float down out of the sky and it reminded me of a day on my coast to coast walk back in the fall of 1975. I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan northwest of Tahquamenon Falls. It was a perfect October day and I walked little two-track, jeep trails through the sandy hills, the brown ferns baking in the autumn sun. During a break, I laid down in the leaves and was enjoying the view of the golden leaves above me set against the pure blue of the sky. A wayward breeze puffed the trees overhead and set a flurry of color dancing downward. The rain of leaves waltzed here and there floating this way and that. As they twirled down toward the Earth I began to “will” them to me. I wanted so much for them to land upon my outstretched body. I wanted them to cover me with their color. I wanted them to grace me with their feather-light touch. One by one they floated down. One by one they missed me until there was only one left in the crisp fall air. It seemed to dance slower and twirl in wider circles, but it fluttered ever down. I thought, “come to me”, “land here”, “over here”…. and like a gentle lover the leaf slowly settled upon my face, like a kiss I will never forget.|
|11-6-08 A few weeks ago as I walked the empty beaches of Rhode Island I came upon a woman’s tracks in the sand. They wandered in and out of the surf, around the boulders, and through the wet sand. The tracks caught my eye again and again as I wandered the shore. They seemed sleek and perfect, like a fine print on the blank canvas of smooth sand. Another brush of beauty on the pulsing, ever-changing beach.
|10-28-08 When you walk along the beach by the ocean the sound of the waves is a near constant crash and pounding. But a couple weeks ago in Rhode Island I found an amazing silence. It happened a couple times when all of sudden the waves ahead, behind, and right next to me were all in sync. Suddenly there was a space of quiet. It came rushing into the void and struck me with a joyous uplifting. Gone in just seconds, that quiet space of time was a moment of beauty I treasure as much as the constant sea song I had come to listen to.|
|10-27-08 I was driving through Norwich, CT a couple weeks ago and came upon a place where traffic in both directions was stopped to let an old woman and her dog cross the busy street. The woman, looking ancient and worn, walked deliberately and slow, leading the dog which appeared even older and walked even slower. It struck me, these two old souls, as a picture of beauty…two old friends keeping up with each other, walking together, pausing to let the other catch up, cheering each other on. I choked up as I felt the love of these two elders. My fellow travelers in all the nearby cars were content to let them take their time crossing that road. Perhaps they saw themselves in years to come? Or perhaps they, too, saw the beauty in the passing of an old lady and her dog.|
|10-22-08 I’ll start with this picture of a Fall fern. Imagine the smell of dry, fallen leaves baking in a September sun.|