Red Deadnettle . . . (Lamium purpurem) Introduced from Eurasia.

April Forest Beauty,
Shadebush . . .

Walking & the Pace of Perception?

Happening upon a cluster of low-lying Red Deadnettles is
always a pleasant surprise. They must bear the burden
of the epithet ‘dead’ because, unlike the unrelated Stinging
Nettle, which grows close by and whose leaves are
somewhat similar, its leaves don’t ‘bite.’

I often think what a poor world it would be without the slow,
sure, steady pace of walking. That’s when I like to think. No
hard thinking, like working out the ratios in a complex of
cross-rhythms. More just letting my thoughts ramble and
observing the movement, a kind of hopping about from idea to
idea like a blackcap chickadee looking for bugs under the
twigs of trees. And I often think what a poor world it would
be if we no longer walked at all. How would we know the
land? The plants? How would I know myself, for that matter,
for is not the land a kind of mirror of relationship as we make
our way through the years, growing, changing, evolving?

Naturally, we are walkers. Perception, clear thinking,
a sense of natural limit, scale and proportion, of
movement in the Arts of design, music, dance and
poetry, all seem to have their roots in the rhythm and
pace of walking.

Abandoning walking for high-speed mechanical modes
of transportation—most especially cars—means these
roots are being lost.

So instead of being nourished by what we see and hear,
now the world passes by as a strangely illusory and almost
arbitrary stream of images, so much like television, that the
natural impulse in quiet moments would be to turn it off.
Except we can’t. Or at least that is what we tell ourselves.
For we have shaped the world to fit the machine, not
ourselves, and now the machine has come round
to shape us.

Grabbing ahold of a real bunch of stinging nettle—by mistake
—might be just what we need to shock us into an awareness of
what has already been lost.

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Photograph/Text/Translation by Cliff Crego © 2007
(created: IV.23.2007)