Monday, November 16, 2009

A Feeling of Perfection

In chapter 7 of The Wisdom of Wilderness, Gerald May talks about trees – actually, looking at trees and experiencing a “feeling of perfection:”

“I think you know what a feeling of perfection is. It just happens; you’re driving along and walking along or maybe just sitting there and suddenly, gently, everything is perfect. It doesn’t matter whether things are pleasant or unpleasant, or whether you’re happy or sad; you just get this sense that everything, just as it is, is exactly the way it should be. It has a cleanness to it, a simplicity, a just-is-ness, an absolute sufficiency.”

May goes on to say that at the time, he believed it was one of those things that just happen; later on, he understood that every moment is actually like that.

Every moment a feeling of perfection?

Well, yes. I think he’s right. And I’m almost startled to say that.

I recall a solitary hike. The two sons had outgrown hiking with Dad in Shaw’s Nature Reserve, far to the west of the St. Louis metropolitan area (they changed the name a number of years back; I still call it Shaw’s Arboretum). It’s some 2400 acres of mostly forests and trails, with certain sections dedicated to tall grass prairie and a few planned gardens. But mostly woods and trails. The reserve touches a stretch of the Meramec River, and you can actually walk down and out into the large rock bars and sand bars when the river is low.

Hiking by myself, I walked down to the river, scouted interesting looking rocks, and inhaled the quiet. I sat on an old tree trunk, which judging by its whiteness had been sent down the river a long time before. And all I could hear was silence – even the river was flowing almost soundlessly. And no one else around. It was like that feeling of perfection that May describes.

And then I hiked back, and the hills are steep. The River Trail, which is the one I was on and my favorite at the reserve, followed back up a tall hill at a pretty significant angle. At the top, there’s a rest place with a bench, as if the reserve people know you’re going to need it after that climb.

I sat, and this time looked down on the river, and could actually see the place I had sat on the tree trunk. I looked across the river to the bluffs on the other side, and could see and clearly hear the low mooing of cows in a pasture. It was another feeling of perfection, when everything was actually perfect. And I had two of those in the space of about 30 minutes.

As I stood to walk the two miles or so back to the parking lot, it began to rain, lightly. Hearing the raindrops on the fallen leaves, feeling them on my face – it was yet another moment of perfection. That made three.

If I had been more attuned, I would have known that every moment is like that. Every moment has been created to be that.

(We’ve been discussing May’s book over at the High Calling Blogs on Mondays. Come take a look. Today's discussion starts here.)


katdish said...

Yes! Oh my goodness! I've never thought of moments like that, but you're absolutely right. Our personal circumstances don't have to take away from the perfection of the moments in our lives.

Man, I loved this.

Maureen said...

I'm fortunate to have been able to travel abroad. My trip to South Africa in the late '90s offered many such moments of perfection: at the Cape of Good Hope, where I watched hundreds upon hundreds of penguins gather and then suddenly all together slide in the ocean waters; on an evening safari trek, when we came upon a pride of magnificent lions; at the top of Table Mountain above Cape Town; and waking each morning at the Honey Guide camp to the sounds of apes in the trees outside our tent. In God's country like this, it's impossible to think about anything but what's in front of you.

Laura said...

Wouldn't it be amazing if our brains allowed us to tune into these perfections every second? I felt such a peace reading about your experience. I think that is how we were meant to live.

Marcus Goodyear said...

This reminds me of the time I went caving alone. At the end of the cave in the final room, I was covered in sweat and I turned out my headlamp.

It was so dark, I could barely see. But it was not too dark to keep out the gnats that swarmed around me. And it was so quiet I could hear them like music.

It was a perfect moment. It is hard to be attuned to such moments, because we create so much noise and distraction.

(On the downside, I got really sick after hiking and caving alone when it was 105 degrees.)