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Still the Mind to See and Hear

Summary: Still the mind to see and hear things you ordinarily wouldn’t notice. My walking meditation helps settle the audio-visual chatter.

9/17/20 Thursday | Today I stopped at the creek to gather a few rocks. Before that I’d spent the mid-morning hours pulling PDF’s of my old blogs so I can keep them in the files with a bunch of other old memories. Before that, I fed the horses and cat, and went off for my daily bit of exercise.

My morning mile is more than just exercise for my body. It is also a layered meditation. It’s the only kind of meditation I seem to be able to do. I’ve never been able to sit in stillness and quiet my mind, though I would like to learn. For the first half, I slow-jog and it quiets the mind. Second half is communion. I walk back toward the house for the second half of the mile, and focus on sights and sounds. Just as with the mind, there’s a lot of AV chatter to still. After that, in the stillness, I hear and see the quiet and distant things. The creek has voices and her song is slow and melodic this morning. Each little spill a different tune. The driveway looks a uniform tan, but individual colors reveal themselves on closer, focused attention. I love having this relationship with nature. It fuels my life. 

What is AV chatter?

AV is ‘audio-visual’. So it’s just like all the random thoughts that keep popping into your mind when you’re trying to still the mind. Instead, it’s sounds and sights. ‘Chatter’ is all the things you normally see and hear, and most of the time it’s the things easiest to focus upon.

Hear

Still the auditory chatter. With sound, at least here, it’s the nearby birds, crickets and frogs, or if the creek is loud, it’s the rushing water. Kind of like white noise or static. Once I set those sounds aside, though, I can hear the things I might not ordinarily hear. A leaf rustling because a beetle is rustling about underneath it. A hawk circles overhead and shrieks. Once, I even heard the screams of something tiny and tracked it down to find a snake eating a mouse.

Another time when I was trying to find a source for a spring, I had to listen hard to hear faint drip-drip of water seeping from beneath a rock uphill. In that instance, I had to still the beating of my heart to hear the fainter sounds. It was an uphill climb, and I’d go from tree to tree and rest with my back against the tree and downhill behind me. My heartbeat was pretty loud after the exertion, and the drips were very faint. But I found the spring source and it delighted me.

See

Visual chatter is similar, but pertains to what your mind allows you to see or recognize. A stilled mind is a lot more receptive than a busy one. The things you see most often are the ones you’re most likely to notice at first glance. Once you get that out of the way, then you’ll begin to notice the things you might otherwise not have seen. An example is the color of our driveway. At first glance it’s all the same dusty color. But when you look closer, you’ll see all the different shades of color in the rocks that make up the driveway. Or you’ll notice the little critters, like the millipede coordinating those thousand legs across the rock next to the one you’re sitting on. Things like that otherwise would escape detection unless it actually climbed on your hand.

An Autumn State of Mind

Since my walk/jog meditation, I’ve been in a state of mind that usually comes around in autumn. It’s a good time for me creatively, especially for my writing, because I’m able to focus and delve deeper than I can when everything else is pulling me from all the other directions. And it’s not that anything external has changed – except the angles of the light, and perhaps the veils between worlds. Sometimes that curtain ripples a little bit. I think this morning was one of those times. It’s the liminality of it all that gets to me. A liminal space is my favorite sort of space. You know, the ‘between’ spaces… between waking and dreaming, the moments between darkness and light at dusk and dawn, the transitional period between seasons or landforms. Those are all liminal spaces.

This morning’s mood paved the way for my wading through the past. I started blogging around 2003. Back in the days before there was a ‘platform’, and so all of it was done with HTML. I didn’t think to save back-ups of all those year’s worth of memories, though. As much criticism as the Internet Archives have gotten for copyright infringement, I’ve been very happy to find that I can still retrieve a lot of my early internet blogs from that site.

Here’s one of the stories I wrote somewhere around 2010. Garrison was almost 14, if I’m doing the mental math correctly.

Having a Little Fun

Finally, the rain came down in enough quantity to get the creeks flowing again. As we headed out the other morning, on our usual jaunt down the county road toward school and work, I dodged a large puddle.

“Aw mom, why didn’t you speed up and hydroplane it!” he cried.

This drew a sharp look from me.

He was truly dismayed. I was absolutely mortified.

“Hmmm. It’s going to be a while before you can get your permit.”

That little exchange did get me thinking though. There was a time when my first instinct would have been to splash joyfully through it, and I have experienced the sheer fear and adrenaline rush of hydroplaning (not that it’s something I’d repeat…)

My first instinct was to go around the puddle, and it was his to go straight through.

So when we came upon the next big puddle, we did make a mess. Muddy water splattered all the way up to the windshields. And it was fun and he was satisfied even if we didn’t skate the surface 🙂

Next Day Nature Journal Entry

9/18/20 Friday | Today there is a haze in the air from the fires in the western United States. So much of California is burning, and Oregon, too. It must be horrific there, if the haze is so obvious here. I hope it ends soon and the people and wildlife are able to get on to recovery from it. Between the wildfires, hurricanes, and pandemic, it’s been a tough year for lots of folks. I hope we can get through the rest of the year without tacking something else onto that list. Oh. I forgot. It’s also election year and that’s looking fairly contentious already. It should probably go on the list.

I’ve been trying to decide what subject to paint next. I need to do another raptor portrait, and I have several excellent references for a few of the ones on my list. But there’s another bird I want to paint, and it’s not a game bird or a raptor. It’s a bird I have never seen other than in brief glimpses, but fascinates me. And this morning that bird paid me a leisurely visit from a nearby tree, allowing me to study him as much as it seemed he was studying me.

So I think, after a couple of other small projects on my immediate list, I will paint a yellow-billed cuckoo. Or ‘rain crow’ as some know it. I wrote a blog post not too long ago about my intent to paint this bird. I’m glad I finally got to see one up close.

This morning during my walk, I found two really nice pigment rocks. I found some nice ones yesterday, too. I might have missed the ones from this morning, if the visual chatter was still distracting me, though. Luckily, I was able to see past the ubiquitous tan that coats all of the rocks and notice this brilliant rusty ochre shining through.

Madison Woods is an artist and paintmaker from Kingston, Arkansas.
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Author/Artist Info
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In the summer of 2018 I began making watercolor paints from the rocks, clay, and other resources of our land here in the Ozarks. My artwork is made exclusively with these paints. I call them Wild Ozark Paleo Paints, because they’re made in a way very close to the same way paints were made when man first put a hand-print on the wall of a cave. My specialty is painting nature, specifically the nature that surrounds me here in the remote hills of northwest Arkansas.

Click here to join my mailing list.

Madison Woods
@wildozark (Instagram and FB)
[email protected]

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janet
18 September 2020 6:40 pm

Madison, I see why I think of you as a kindred spirit, even though I live in the ‘burbs and you live quite “in nature.” My morning walks do these sorts of things for me, which is why I like to walk where I don’t see many people. It was… Read more »

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