Walk Around
Walk Around
23 - Don't Worry

23 - Don't Worry

A story about worry and moments of awareness
Mixed bunchgrass and pasture grass prairie, northeastern Oregon

This is Hudson Gardner. Welcome to Walk Around.

Right now I am sitting in the shade. It's really hot today. So I’m sitting next to a guest house I'm living in, looking out across an unmowed, untended field. It's kind of like a little pasture. This is actually a place I've been coming since I was four or five years old. The first time I came here, I can't even remember. But it's my aunt's house. And it's such a beautiful place. It's one of the only places that has stayed the same for my whole life in terms of something that I returned to, which is really neat and rare for me.

I've been walking around a lot recently. Surveying for what some people call invasive weeds, walking the prairies in northeastern Oregon.

And it's been a really hard job, surprisingly, in some ways. And also really relaxing in many other ways. And it's a unique environment that I'm walking through. Some of it's still kind of native looking with a lot of different flowers and small bunch grass clumps that are at the most about waist high, sometimes a little taller.

And I've walked, I don't know, maybe 100, 150 miles so far this month. It has been really good for my body and it's allowed me to have a lot of space to think about how so many things have changed for me in the last year and a lot of the difficulties that have occurred and just given me a lot of time to really get in touch with what my mind's up to. Just hours and hours and hours. Also just in some way for my body to work things out through the physical motion of walking, which I really believe in.

Native buckwheat flowering on a slope

I've had a lot of luck walking out certain emotions, or walking through problems, or trying to understand something by walking. I Have a lot of insights walking, and it's such an easy thing to do. The terrain we've been walking has been somewhat difficult, exposed, windy, hot at times, cold at others, rocky, or steep, but it's been really beautiful.

It's different than where I am now. Across from where I'm sitting is a grove of aspen trees, and there's an apple tree, and some willows, and some cottonwoods, and the grass is almost head high. Out in the prairies it's short, and there's ponderosa clumps- little islands of ponderosa trees between big fields, big open spaces of grass with some wildflowers and little berries under the ponderosas and currants in the open rocky areas... and a lot of space to encounter. And a lot of things to think through.

There's a type of thing that happens in meditation for me when I've been meditating for a month or a couple weeks pretty consistently, where I get to a point where my thoughts suddenly one day during a meditation session just stop. They just sort of end, just come to a screeching halt. But it's not a screeching halt.

It's more just like an absence of thought, and it's sort of a surprise. It's like, whoa. There's actually space here. And that kind of a feeling occurred to me out on the prairie a few days ago.

Everything just stopped. And I looked in front of me and I saw the grass moving in the breeze. And the ponderosas. And I thought, wow. I've kind of been away for a while again.

Experiences like this come to me from time to time. Sometimes I'm sitting or looking out a window. Sometimes I'm walking. Sometimes I'm talking with a person. It happens infrequently, but often enough for me to remember how it feels. And this was one of those moments when there was just an opening. And I thought, well, what am I going to put in this opening or what's going to happen now?

And almost always what happens is some kind of realization about all the thoughts that have been going on and what their sources were and what they were about, what they meant, what they were trying to do, trying to stop from happening. And what I realized I had been doing a lot recently was a lot of worrying.

There have been a lot of worrisome things happening and so I decided, in that moment of space, to not give my worries so much credit. That understanding unrolled to the next two days walking 12 or 13 miles or so, and coming back to that original thought of saying: I'm not going to give these worries so much credit.

And then the night before, last night, I was up on a really beautiful high ridge that Caitlin, my co- worker , had taken me to, a place that she usually celebrates her birthday, except a little bit further down the ridge. She has a birthday spot she likes to go. And... We were setting up camp and she took a nap and I went off into the trees and this phrase came again to me.

A Little gust of wind came toward me, and it reminded me of the phrase that I had said to myself, which was: don't worry. And so I started writing it down. I started with something that had happened a couple of days before, a week before. And I crafted a little story about something. And that's what I have to share on this podcast today. A little poem, a little story,

And it's called: Don't Worry.

Don’t Worry

A gust swirled around me as I entered the little draw. Broken off hawthorne trees perfected by thrashing winds, all tight together, where perched two young magpies letting me in close, eyeing and wondering.

Let your greatest hurt become a gift                I heard these words, in the little draw of hawthorne: heart tonic. Old rocks lining a tiny stream, a few flowers and a cliff. There are still places like this.

Don’t worry

—walked out from the ravine and saw the pond, edged with sedges and brilliant white-blue dragonflies, delicate metallic damselflies—and pretty clear for a cow pond really—and I saw the fence and turned back down the draw and past the pond and then the wind…

Don’t worry

Went still and then it came up and blew harder and harder and harder until I had to kneel down to bear it—              and it blew, and it said:

Don’t worry

And then it hit the pond and churned up little waves, blew the reeds and the leaves of the hawthorne trees, and the magpies still clutching the branches watching me…

And it blew past. And I kept walking down deep in the prairie range north of town, and down I went into this little canyon, and I had been feeling bad: bad-bad, sad crying bad and a bad I don’t often get to because it was a real bad one, like a canyon of bad much bigger than the one I was in, where at times the sun barely rose and set before I could orient my way out—

and then that same cool wind from the west blew through me and around me

And somehow it turned around in that little ravine and blew toward me, a soft warm wind now it was

and it caressed me, held me for less than a moment…

And it said:

Don’t worry

My friend Caitlin Rushlow and the prairie

It's funny. As I read this a wind picked up and blew, bigger than one that's been blowing for a while, just as I finished reading. It's really interesting when things happen like that, and I just kind of take it as a sign that I shouldn't worry.

There's another podcast you should check out soon. It's called Synovium by Morgan Kulas. And she's got some really great stuff on there. We're going to talk soon. And I think it's going to be a lot of fun. And hopefully interesting. So... When you see that podcast go up with me and Morgan, we might post it on both of ours.

I don't really know what's going to happen. It might be a regular thing. We're kind of throwing a lot of ideas out. Maybe we'll do one on mine, one on hers. I don't know. But when you see that come up, I recommend listening to it. And if you liked this one, if you have somebody who seems like they're worrying about a lot of things in their life, maybe you could send it to them.

Or maybe you could think about them and reach out and ask them how they're doing and listen to them. Talk to them for an hour, or as much time as you have. Just offer your presence and maybe even pat their back or rub their hand or give them a massage or buy them a coupon for a massage. Something like that.

Little things help.

Thanks for reading.

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Walk Around
Walk Around
We Are All A Part. Writing and recordings about nature, existence, and wildness—at three miles per hour.
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Hudson Gardner