The trail I chose to take on this day is called the Blue Trail, and it switchbacks its way up the side of Mt. Tammany on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap. The trail seemed steeper than I remembered and I had to stop repeatedly to let my breathing and heartbeat catch up to one another. Several younger hikers paused to ask if I was alright, and I assured them that I was fine and that it was just old age catching up to me. They probably wondered why an old guy like me would attempt a trail this steep.
If they had asked me that question I would have told them that to me every tree, plant, vine, flower, weed and mushroom is a living and breathing organism that has a soul, or Wight, living in it, and that they were given the same breath of life as we were by the Gods. I don' t so much look at nature as feel it. This "feeling" is primeval and attached to my inner concious. And while most people who passed me,( ok everybody passed me), were going at such a fast pace to reach the tremendous overlook at the top of the mountain I was enjoying the gnarly trees and the overgrowth of plants on the forest floor. I felt a deep sadness to see the leaves, now in a kaleidoscope of colors lying on the forest path, their life cycle for this year now complete.While walking on the path through these piles of leaves, which made a continous rustling sound, I came upon an old tree that had toppled over and was now dying. I could almost feel its pain ! Surely it knew its time was over. But I also realized that its passing would give nutrients to the soil for future generations of trees and that this was just part of the life cycle of nature.
My slow progression allowed me to see a little more of my natural surroundings than my swifter fellow hikers. Where some water was dripping between some boulders I saw a beautiful little orange salamander with black spots and off the trail a little I saw what another hiker told me was a black rat snake. It was quite stunning as it sunned itself, to warm up its cold blood, on a grey-brown rock.
In a shady spot, under some fern like plants, were growing some mushrooms. They almost looked like someone had painted them there. I decided to rest there and to honor the forest wights with a few words and an offering of my water, which I sprinkled over the mushrooms.
When I finally reached the top of the mountain all the other hikers were already on the outcropping of rocks enjoying the breathtaking views of the Delaware River and Mt. Minsi just beyond. Standing on top of Mt. Tammany gave me the same feeling that I have always had at summits. The only way I can desribe it is to call it pure joy ! No where else on the planet have I ever felt closer to our Gods and Goddesses, (well maybe in Iceland), then when I am on top of a mountain. It is as if the barrier between us and the Gods is thinner there making closer contact possible.
I spent several hours sitting there watching the hawks and turkey buzzards riding the thermals in search of food, their occasional cries piercing the silence. The wind that they were riding would come in waves and sometimes were strong enough to take your breath away. This raw power reminded me that nature does not get angry, it doesn't show spite or prejudice, it just does what it does without malice of any kind. When out in nature you must be prepared, for this is thier domain and we are only their guests.
I made the mistake of taking the Red Dot trail back down the mountain. It was shorter but much steeper. My knees paid an awful price for expediency. When I reached my car I was filled with both joy and sadness. These moments will not be a part of my life soon. Like that poor tree my life cycle is almost over. Other than our own lives, nature is the best gift that the Gods and Goddesses have given us. Go out and enjoy it as much as you can !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !