Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nature Walk

Yesterday, for the purpose of stress reduction, I decided to walk in the grasslands and patchy forest beside the nearby reservoir. I applied sunscreen, donned my straw hat, grabbed my camera and a water bottle, and set off for the reservoir.

To begin my nature walk in a tranquil mental state, I tarried awhile along the shore. Few boats were on the reservoir. The water's surface was calm, showing only tiny ripples from a light breeze.

Two ducks, a male and a female, swam up to the shore in front of me. The male looked at me and quacked some muted, phlegmy quacks. I think he had a cold. Taking the duck's comments as signal to get moving, I left the reservoir and wandered around in the adjoining trees and brush until I found the official trailhead.

As I started down the trail, I resolved to be mindful of my surroundings. One can learn much by observing nature and asking why things are the way they are. There was a line of trees ahead of me. Why were they in a line? The trees were separated from the water by a marshy area. Why couldn't the trees penetrate the marsh? My mind filled with questions. Why this? Why that?

I heard rushing water ahead. I hurried forward along the trail until I saw a fast moving stream. It was beautiful. Trust me, contemplation of a stream is a sure-fire tonic to the disposition.

By this time I was fully relaxed. Ideas came to me. I should buy a used kayak and paddle around the reservoir, I thought. I conceived the outline of a folktale about a young soldier being assigned a quest in order to prove himself worthy of winning the hand of the King's daughter. And the soldier seeks the help of a wizard. But the wizard is out of town and the wizard's incompetent brother tries to offer help in the wizard's place. And the consequences are both calamitous and amusing. Clearly, observation of nature frees the mind and stirs the imagination.

As Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his Treatise on Painting: "I will not forget to insert into these rules, a new theoretical invention for knowledge’s sake, which, ,although it seems of little import and good for a laugh, is nonetheless, of great utility in bringing out the creativity in some of these inventions. This is the case if you cast your glance on any walls dirty with such stains or walls made up of rock formations of different types. If you have to invent some scenes, you will be able to discover them there in diverse forms, in diverse landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, extensive plains, valleys, and hills. You can even see different battle scenes and movements made up of unusual figures, faces with strange expressions, and myriad things which you can transform into a complete and proper form constituting part of similar walls and rocks. These are like the sound of bells, in whose tolling, you hear names and words that your imagination conjures up.

Don’t underestimate this idea of mine, which calls to mind that it would not be too much of an effort to pause sometimes to look into these stains on walls, the ashes from the fire, the clouds, the mud, or other similar places. If these are well contemplated, you will find fantastic inventions that awaken the genius of the painter to new inventions, such as compositions of battles, animals, and men, as well as diverse composition of landscapes, and monstrous things, as devils and the like. These will do you well because they will awaken genius with this jumble of things. But, first you must know the components of all those groups of things you wish to represent, such as the members of the animal kingdom, as well as the components of the countryside, such as rocks, plants and similar things...."

I walked and walked until the sun began to set. This was the cue for the white-tailed deer to come out of hiding. They paid me no attention, except for the largest deer, who gave me impertinent looks. I think that he may have been toying with the idea of eating my straw hat.

I returned home in the dark. I was somewhat footsore but refreshed in mind and spirit.

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