| A drawing from an old sketchbook of the trail|
Clarke Pond is part of a small patch of conservation property not far from my home. I like to think of it as my own personal walking meditation place. It's a lovely spot - seasonally a home to ducks, geese, egrets, herons, kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds, and a layover for other migrating waterfowl as well as a huge variety of birds traveling along the Eastern Atlantic Flyway. It's bordered on one side by a beach hammered by the wild and gray Atlantic Ocean, and on the other by salt marsh, low-lying swampy wetlands and large outcroppings of granite hosting a mixed hardwood and conifer forest. In other words - an absolute cornucopia of habitats for all sorts of animals - furred, feathered and scaled. There are a few trails running through the property, none of them very demanding for the hardened hiker, yet somehow just perfect for rumination, brief vertical challenges and rocky, ankle-twisting mindfulness.
It is a place of profound solace for me - the place I head when I need to calm the "monkey-mind" that invariably tangles me up as a result of living immersed in the craziness of the modern world. I never fail to come away without some form of "treasure" after having spent an hour or so wandering about. Treasure is a concept that I'm learning to redefine in very different terms these days - a pure white, downy feather snagged on a thin tree limb, waving madly in the wind like a small flag of universal surrender or perhaps semaphore to the unknown in a language now lost. A sand dollar washed up completely intact on a beach dense with tide-tumbled stones of all sizes and shapes. A stick with the letter "C" carved into it by some small worm or cellulose loving insect. The perfect stone with which to make a talisman for a friend far away. These are the tangible treasures that I can take with me. These are the cherished renderings of the ground I walk, the gifts of the natural world. But today there was another kind of treasure that found me. One completely unlooked for, completely unseen by the eye that sees the "world as it is". As I rambled about I was suddenly overcome with the most profound feeling of gratitude that I have ever experienced for the gift of all the friendships that I have been blessed with. Friendship is one of life's greatest intangible treasures, seen only with the "inner" eye - the eye of the heart - and I knew at that moment that I had connected to that sacred thread that links us all together, makes us love each other, and humbles us in the face of tragedy. I left Clarke Pond, the biting wind off the North Atlantic stinging my face as I slogged my way up the beach - headed home with full pockets, a full heart, and eager anticipation for the cup of cocoa waiting for me at home. And talk about treasure...don't even get me started on the virtues of chocolate.