Why I Hike

Over the last few weeks, precluded from leaving the house much, I have been watching out the back window at the birds that have come to drink from a basin of I water I fill each day. In particular one bird, a canyon towhee, is often there. He is much bigger than the other birds and therefore distinct. He is “native”, whereas many of the others are european imports. But anyway, as time has gone on and I’ve had nothing to do, I have really grown fond of this big sparrow shaped bird. Though he’s not that impressive in color, and doesn’t have much of a song, he has a strong personality, and likes to root around under the apple tree, throwing sticks and leaves everywhere, in his search for food. I realized yesterday, as I saw him getting ready to sleep in the old dead tree across the alley (where he sleeps every night), how sad I would be if I one day found him dead. There are some really rough cats that prowl the alley and I always haze them by yelling (sorry cat lovers, cats kill billions of birds every year) and I thought also about how terrible it would be if this rare bird (canyon towhees are really rare in towns) got killed by someone’s cat.

All this to say—since we’re all cooped up inside, and all staring at screens too much, I think it’s important to remember what’s real and what’s not. All the images we see on the screen neither live, nor die. They are just there every day in this endless feed, producing good and bad emotions, thoughts, etc. Yet if one of those images that we spend so much time looking at blinked out, we wouldn’t even notice. There are so many that it’s not even like they have any vitality to them at all. They are disposable before they even enter your consciousness—they are less memorable than breathing. And yet so much is wrapped up in those images and screens nowadays—which is a landscape not of vitality but of endless unimportance.

My thought is this: focusing on what we can see, even out our backdoor window, is sometimes more meaningful than the things our brains get hooked on and tell us to keep consuming. It’s a different kind of attention that’s needed to draw one to this “less interesting” experience. But the important part is that it actually makes us care about something, love something, connect with something—and maybe more importantly, want to protect it. And I guess that’s part of why I go hiking.