Taking Notes from Nature

Today is my birthday. As I sit by the shores of Lac du Moulin in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec, and consider hiking to Lac Seigneurial, I stare out at hundreds of Canadian geese making a nasal, one-syllable honk almost in unison. Some of the geese are in one place while others swim gracefully. Further on is a devoted couple of swans. They are engrossed in themselves and don’t seem to acknowledge anything else as they float nearly still on the water. I have brought my yoga mat and my journal, eager to jot down all the things I believe will flow to my hands—it is my birthday after all. I have the day off, and I think that I am more attuned to my creativity today. All I have wanted for my birthday, besides seeing my mother in person after three years, is to come out to St. Bruno to have time alone with my thoughts. 

It’s so peaceful. After removing my shoes, I step barefoot on the crunchy leaves. My red T-shirt and black sweatpants blend in with the autumnal colours. I sit on my two-toned yoga mat, legs crossed, totally blossoming in this summer-like, fall warmth that comforts my skin and could easily teleport me to my mother’s picturesque garden. It feels like a day in the tropics. Growing up, my mother always had different varieties of flowers and shrubs in her garden. Some with scents and others unscented, but they were all very unique and gorgeous. As my eyes wander, they settle onto the forest—what I’m learning to call “the woods” as my western friends do.

The trees in the woods stand very tall and their bare branches sway in the calm wind. Yet, all I hear is their silence. I don’t hear them worrying about the leaves they have lost, which now cover the ground with their beautiful foliage. I don’t hear the bare trees worrying about the winter days that are approaching. The trees don’t seem like they’re wondering how and when they will grow leaves again, and likewise the fallen leaves aren’t wondering about their past life in the trees or their next life on the ground.

Marvelling at the trees, I realise that my mind is searching for answers to several questions that I have about how nature and other creatures seem to easily be in their true environment. They are simply in their present moment while my mind wanders to the past and the future, unsettled. But I believe God clearly wants the same for me, to be unconcerned like these trees because I am reminded of the recent summer, when my daughters and I were visiting British Columbia. On this particular tourist-like day, we went to the Bridal Veil Falls, which tumbled 60 metres over a smooth rock face, creating the appearance of a veil. The waterfalls were absolutely gorgeous! There were several people, young and old, trekking to visit them. The falls had a very calming effect on my mind as I stared at them. Looking around at the other tourists, I realised that we were all strangers united by the beauty of these waterfalls. I swore that the falls’ burbling and attractiveness were calling out to me to experience them. I simply could not resist going under one of the cascades, so I jumped in. The water cooled my head and the rest of my body. The cold ran down my spine, giving me an indescribable satisfaction. At that moment I knew I was fully present with the waterfalls. It was blissful. Logic and sense never kicked in until we started to walk back to the car and I realised that I was soaking wet—I did not have a change of clothes and the car seats were going to get wet too! Meanwhile my children were laughing their lungs out at the fact that their mother had just acted like a toddler.

Since visiting the falls, I am learning not to miss out on the silence that nature offers me by taming my wandering mind and taking control. I’m learning to bring my thoughts back to peaceful moments and to the present through journaling and practising mindfulness with my breathing. In the past, I never knew how much my mind raced with thoughts of what needed to get done. Through writing, I have more reflective moments that help me draw back to the Now. 

I have resolved that for every given opportunity of presence, having a moment when my mind is quiet is my everyday target. This new mind fills me with gratitude as opposed to the longing of what “should” be, what “could” be. And when I have the opportunity to be out in nature like today, I practise Psalm 46:10 (NIV), which says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” So, today on my birthday, the resolution I focus on is to be present, to be silent together with God’s creation.

Kya Mara is the inaugural recipient of Raising Mothers’ 2022 We Are The House: A Virtual Residency for Early-Career Writers. WATH is a year-long virtual residency for one BIPOC nonfiction writer dedicated to helping early-career, underrepresented writers who are also parents build their writing portfolio. To learn more about our residency, click here.

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