Henry David Thoreau spoke of sitting in his sunny doorway at Walden from sunrise ’til noon, “rapt in a reverie”, absorbing nature in “undisturbed solitude and stillness”. This was true mindfulness before we had the word for it. Thoreau said of these time lapses:
“They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.“Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I feel as Thoreau did when I watch birds, that somehow the time I’ve spent has been additive, and helped my soul expand.
Just before Christmas, I spent an hour as darkness fell at the Washington Street Pier in Bay St. Louis, watching hundreds of seagulls and the occasional brown pelican gathering on a jetty, deciding where to spend the night.
I felt as one with the birds, and they didn’t seem to notice me. I liked that.
After a time, they began to stir and to fly away, as though the jetty at the Washington Street Pier was just a stop on their journey for the evening. It was fascinating, and I took a short (very amateur) video.
Spending that time with the shorebirds and reflecting on it later, I’m wondering what I can learn from them. They seemed to be a true community, a collection of individuals communicating with one another to make decisions for the whole flock. Or perhaps, instead of needing to learn something from them, they were just the “tonic of wildness” that Thoreau describes, making me feel refreshed and at one with the universe.
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Wishing you the tonic of wildness and nature, whether it be from shorebirds, snow, wilderness, urban parks or the pretty little weeds in the driveway.