When I walked out of the house this morning here in Austin, the humidity hit me like a wall of water. My glasses fogged over and within seconds I, someone who almost never sweats, was drenched. My t-shirt looked like I should be an extra in Rocky Part XII, after running fifty miles up bleacher steps while training. For someone who has lived in Northern New Mexico for a quarter century, where humidity like this only happens in a steam shower, this is uncharted territory. It's like Hawaii without the tradewinds. The tropics without the ocean. Apparently, this much moisture in the summer (it actually rained last night) is quite unusual for early July. So it is lush and green and beautiful here in Austin. But to call it soggy would be a vast understatement. Even my dog Allie lay down and refused to walk another humid step by 7AM this morning. All of this to say that, getting out to do my ten hilly miles a day in this weather requires an attitude adjustment every time I walk out the front door. That moment where I shift from WTF? Who can live this this? To I am grateful to be able to walk in such beauty. And Thank God for air conditioning.
I didn't think I was going to write a blog this weekend. I am on a big book writing deadline, and I thought I would just pop up a few short Daily Practice of Joy posts. But then this morning, my attitude adjustment happened for me. And when it did, I was reminded of one of my favorite morning joy practices while walking. So, I thought I would share it with you.
For years now, whenever I am hiking in nature, I always begin with this greeting: Good morning, all my relations. Then, with every step I take, I look and listen down and up and all around me for my fellow winged, footed, webbed, hooved, horned, finned relations. Over these many years of solo hikes around the world, instead of feeling lonely or fearful, I have felt companioned all along my way by birds and deer and rabbits and snakes and lizards and dragonflies and so many more sweet wild and wonderful creatures. They have been such an immense blessing along my journey.
But this morning, swimming through the streets, I had forgotten my greeting. In fact, I had forgotten it every morning this week. Bogged down in my bleary thoughts as I trudged along, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up. There, in the middle of the street, was a deer. Ten feet ahead. Just staring at Allie and me with a beatific smile. Then I heard another noise. Just to my left was a rabbit, standing on its hind legs, smiling at us. I swear it was smiling. Another noise. To my right a squirrel, also on its hind legs, munching an acorn and looking over to say good morning. All five of us just stood there together for a few minutes, as though we were all characters in the best Disney film EVER! I said to them, Good morning, all my relations. A little contritely. How could I have forgotten to greet my friends? But they weren't bothered. They simply replied, each in their own way -- in Love. No one ran away. Allie (who is actually the St Francis of dogs) never lunged or barked. We all took in this perfect morning moment. Together.
Eventually, the deer walked slowly away. The rabbit sat down to eat. And the squirrel refocused on its breakfast. But for the rest of the walk, Allie and I were companioned by swallows and snakes, more deer and rabbits and squirrels, but kind people, and beautiful flowers. To each one, I said, Good morning my relation. By the end of the walk, my attitude had been beyond adjusted -- into a deep and reverent attitude of gratitude.
When I got home, I opened my regular Saturday morning email recap of posts from my favorite blog, On Being. I turned first, as I always do, to Parker Palmer, and found the perfect PS to our walk. So, to keep my promise to myself of focusing on my book deadline, instead of writing more of my own blog, I will share Parker Palmer's blog instead with you. It begins and ends with the words of the wonderful poet, who has taught us all to see Nature with new reverence and grace. More than anyone, Mary Oliver has created the most essential daily practice of joy from nature.
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. And may I suggest that, one morning when you need an attitude adjustment, you try greeting all your relations -- and see who shows up to greet you in simple natural joy.