9-9: The Sierra and Yosemite were never only Nature, beauty, wonderment, and the place I most liked to go. They were experiences of physical engagement, of combining exertion and sweat with the dust of a trail and the sights along them. Now I see how crucial that kind of engagement was to the experience. (It reminds me of Leopold’s Sand County Almanac where he tells the story of shooting a wolf and watching it die and then realizing that the mountain, they were on had been diminished: A mountain isn’t just a mountain, he saw; it is mountain inclusive of wolf and bear and birds and trees and the rest of its life. This may have been the beginning of his enlightenment.) I could never love these places less, but I see now that just walking their level trails and beholding their goodness and beauty, their infusions of spiritual connection, is not the same and, to my surprise, less meaningful to me. What this will turn out to mean for my times in Nature in the future, I’ve yet to figure out, but age is the period of rapid change and frequent loss so I should probably expect a degree of detachment from beloved landscapes. I can’t imagine that now and don’t know how I could replace them, but as went hiking and the kind of engagement it represented so also may go other facets of engagement. Not clear; I will be watching.
It sort of rained last evening and during the night. (I’m in Kings Canyon.) I’ve not been in the presence of rain for close to a year, and I truly miss it. This one didn’t amount to much moisture but was invaluable as sensation; it woke forest smells that only rain can do, and the rolling thunder may have been composed by Beethoven. The wind cleansed the trees of dead leaves and needles, pine cones fell, the canopy rustled vigorously and was privileged with unimpeded views of the night sky. Rain fell only in spurts but enough to drive me into the camper where the sound of it on the roof is its own pleasure. This morning Twig and I walked. South Fork Kings River by my estimate is only about 5-10% of spring flow (hard to guess; could be slightly more); not so exciting as the tumult of snow melt but still satisfying to sit beside and go with its flow (which is more, I think, than the Merced yesterday, which seemed even lower). To my surprise, one of the streams we crossed that comes out of the mountains to the south still flowed. The expectation of dryness is taking over my mind so any exceptions reassure a bit and, as flowing water always does, excite my imagination.