Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. ~ Henry David Thoreau
I thrive on walks in Seattle’s Lincoln Park, which faces Puget Sound.
Curious how the driftwood belched up by the Sound looks sculpted into the shape of animals. First I spot a sea lion in a log amid pebbles, and now a swan ~
Lythe young bodies jog past me on my way to my meditation bench. Some clock themselves with Fit Bits.
In my forty-somethings, I walked more briskly. With each decade — surprise — I have slowed down. In my fifties, I developed plantar fascitis and now, in my sixties, lower back issues.
I reach my meditation bench. At its base, a plaque engraved with the words Carpe Diem — Seize Today. Nowhere does it say Carpe Histerno — Seize Yesterday. Nor Carpe Manana — Seize Tomorrow.
I am here to calm the internal chatter, to feel the pulse of this sacred, public park. I am here to spend time as deliberately as nature, to notice the cries of gulls, the flute-like melody of thrushes, and lately the sight of sea lions. I am here to engage my senses and practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku — having a forest bath.
Lowering myself onto the bench, I hope to spot my sea lion today.
Seagulls scud across the water. The tide froths against the rocks. Opening my ears, I try to memorize the rhythm of the tide. Inhaling the kelp-scented air, I consider the irony of “smelling the Sound.”
What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the sea lion that bobs up during my dusk quietude? Most likely he would spend an entire day in this spot. Thoreau would stand motionless for eight hours beside Walden Pond to watch young frogs, and all day at a river’s edge watching duck eggs hatching.
Thoreau may have been extreme in his nature studies and solitude. During my forest baths I have at least learned to leave my cell phone behind.
A dog trots past, smiling. Is he experiencing a forest bath too? I smile back.
Eyes half-focused on the horizon, on the quicksilver water, no sea lion appears today. But something shifts and releases in my hips just by being here.