“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower;
there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.”
— Bashō Matsuo, Zen poet 1644-1694
Allowing one’s self a wander into the wild is to invite a slowing down into your life. Even as the mind opens with curiosity as to patterns previously unnoticed, a stillness descends.
The feet find their way along first one game trail and then another, going nowhere but where ever they feel led in the moment. So it was I found myself walking into the middle of a near dozen mule deer on an exquisite June evening in the Sangre de Cristos, as the southern terminus of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico are called.
The evening still carried the heat of a near Solstice day though we were on a shaded east facing slope in an area of mixed pine and aspens. The air carried musky scents of deer now too, as well as that of summer soil and heated tree needles and leaves.
I cannot say who was the more surprised to discover this human amidst the lanky four legged ones. They were women all, so far as I could see; mostly adults but with a few yearlings among them.
Despite our mutual surprise there was no startle reaction. They stared a bit before returning to grazing, though a couple thought to slowly begin a kind of high step sneak-away walk; just in case. I left my gaze in a soft focus while continuing a rhythm of observing, walking a bit, stopping and observing more, intentional steps and breaths.
Finding myself in their presence, their beauty and grace enlivened the experiences of awe and humility and of belonging within me. I eventually walked out of their company, and a few of them out of mine, with the same I-am-forest consciousness I first entered among them with.
It was from the presence of this experience still vibrating within that an hour or so later I sat down and shot this video, curious to see what might reveal itself to me. My reflections do not actually start until about 49 seconds in. I recommend giving yourself the gift of slowing down enough to let the stillness of the forest in as you wait. That means taking a few intentional breaths.
And if this presents too much tension in your system, notice it, take a breath… and then click ahead to that time in the video. A transcription follows.
I have come to realize, that every now and then, a man should crawl out of the skin he puts on to be human. And become naked again to himself and the world.
And alow the realization that he is man, or woman if you will, only because he is also tree, and grass, and leaf, and pine needle, and deer, and antler, and serpent, and robin, grouse, hawk, rabbit, cricket, lizard. Name what you will. He, you, I are all these things too. They live within me, as they live within you.
That butterfly that becomes the chrysalis, that crawls out of its own skin eventually, after a molecular regeneration into another being, that transformative capacity lives within us too. And in that is hope for ourselves personally, and for the world.
Note: “That butterfly that becomes the chrysalis,” is a phrase that will undoubtedly catch the attention if not hackle the scientifically informed or literal minded among us. And rightly so.
More ‘accurately’ of course, it is the caterpillar that spins the cocoon, becoming chrysalis becoming butterfly. The phrase is just what came out of my mouth at the time so I allow it poetic license and find myself a bit intrigued by what my unconscious was pointing toward.
From this mythopoetic perspective, the phrase is perfect and is a reinforcement of the the preceding message: “Every now and then a man should crawl out of the skin he puts on to be human….” The caterpillar and butterfly and chrysalis are of course one being even as is a man and a butterfly, whether the man possesses the gift of sight or wisdom to see and know this or not.
“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, a veritable butterfly, enjoying itself to the full of its bent, and not knowing it was Chuang Chou. Suddenly I awoke, and came to myself, the veritable Chuang Chou. Now I do not know whether it was then I dreamt I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”