The joys of walking slowly

About a month ago, my friend, Ed, and I rode the train to New York to hear Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh talk.

We arrived at Penn Station about thee hours before the dharma talk, and rushed to the Broadway theater where he would speak about slowing down to be more mindful.

That’s right, we rushed to hear about slowing down.

Travels cover croppedSince then, I have been reading “Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life” by Daniel Klein.

In his 70s, the author visited his dentist. “He said I had to get these implants over the course of a year [or] I would look older with denture plates …and my teeth would pop out once in a while,” Klein recalled. “And I thought, ‘what do I care if have a goofy old man smile? I am an old man!’”

So began his quest to find the way to grow old pleasurably. With a bag of philosophy books, he traveled to the Greek Island Hydra to study the wisdom of Epicurus and of modern day Greeks who age in grace and the pleasure of companionship.

On the island’s hills, Klein also discovered, at first by necessity, the pleasure of walking slowly.

Writing in Ladies Home Journal, Carol Mithers says, “Most of the time you walk with a destination in mind and the urge to get there as fast as possible. You hurry, head down, eyes anxiously scanning the phone for messages, fingers frantically typing a text, completely oblivious to your surroundings. But walking slowly…ambling…strolling…whether you’re going somewhere or nowhere in particular is a whole different experience. Slow walking — no iPods or cell phones allowed — isn’t a workout; it’s an exercise only in observation, a way to look at the places and people around you as a small child might, with curiosity and wonder.

Thick Nhat Hanh frequently writes about the rewards of walking meditation. Since his talk in New York, my almost-daily hikes have become strolls, saunters. I do carry a phone because I am seeing so much more than I ever have, and I want to make photographs. And I try to follow the Zen master’s advice:

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”

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Take a walk to Hanging Rock in Richmond #RI

hangin rock bridgeThe round-trip walk to Hanging Rock is less than two miles, but it’s a pretty good work-out with some ups and downs and a couple of spots that demand mindfulness.

The trails to Hanging Rock wind through the Bradner Preserve, maintained by the Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust in southern Rhode Island. The 63-acre preserve is one of several wild places in the rural community; the others are featured on the Richmond Conservation Commissions website.

The canopy here is varied, dominated by American beech, oak and white pines with many yellow birches and some hickory. All but the beech and pine tress have dropped their hanging rock walk sign croppedleaves, so you can see though the woods for a long way off. Over the weekend, we spotted four deer running about 100 yards away in the middle of the day.

Throughout the preserve, old stone walls say the land was farmed, probably for livestock, because the land is much too rough for a plow.

From a little parking area on Gardiner Road, take the blue trail though a grove of immature beech trees and over a rocky spot that demands attention. The trail turns to the right here. Soon after, you can continue straight ahead on blue or turn onto the yellow trail which re-joins the blue trail just before Hanging Rock.

The blue trail has two sturdy bridges over streams that must be crossed. The yellow trail has one short bridge and requires a stream crossing. This time of year, with extremely low water, the crossing is easy, but when spring comes, it may be difficult.

hanging rockJust up the hill from the stream, turn right onto the blue trail, and look up to see Hanging Rock. An “erratic” left by the great glacier, Hanging Rock rests atop a massive outcrop. The trail loops around it.

Though the trails of the Bradner Preserve are too rough for a stroller, they are ideal for a family walk with children;

For a trail map, click here.

To find more places to hike and paddle in Rhode Island, visit ExploreRI.org.

Beautiful: ‘Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter’

weeds in winter cover croppedThe first snow of the season fell on Massachusetts, eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island this morning. It sent many gold finches, tufted, titmice , nuthatches and other birds to the feeders before dawn.

In the withered perennial garden, there were more birds – mostly finches – feasting on the seeds of cultured plants and weeds left standing. High winds had blown seeds of goldenrod, beebalm, and Queen Anne’s Lace to the ground, and the birds scooped them up.

We encourage native “weeds” to find their way into the garden to feed the critters that depend on them.

We also love to look at the plants after they have withered and stand in contrast to winter’s snow.

We appreciate them even more since receiving a copy of Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter by Lauren Brown, a beautiful and helpful guide for plant lovers.

Her pen-and-ink drawings are lovely, and her text is succinct.

For anyone who lives and walks in the Northeast, Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter would be a perfect holiday gift.

If you’d like to learn how to sketch wildflowers, check out the wonderful blog, Let’s Paint Nature.

New bridge completes Grills trails in Westerly & Hopkinton #RI

New bridge enhancedHarvey Buford, left, and Ted Dionne complete a day’s work on the new bridge over Tomaquag Brook yesterday.

A new bridge, connecting the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI to the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI, may be ready for hikers this weekend. The span crosses Tomaquag Brook, connecting the 3.1-mile trail from the trailhead off Route 216 in Hopkinton (pictured below) to the parking area on Bowling Lane in the village of Bradford.

Tomaquag trail at sunsetThe top of Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI at sunset yesterday

The new bridge, built by volunteers from the Hopkinton Land Trust, is less than a mile from the Polly Coon Bridge, an aluminum span, built by the Westerly Land Trust, over the Pawcatuck River.

The new bridge over Tomaquag Brook is 55 feet long, said Harvey Buford. It is about a foot higher than the 100-year-flood mark, but the boardwalks leading to it probably will be submerged in times of flooding, he said.

The new bridge has fiberglass braces and black-locust wood walkways that should endure for 100 years or so, he said.

Both of the Grills sanctuaries offer wildlife a variety of habitats, and hikers can enjoy some gorgeous New England scenery and sounds throughout the year. (For the past week, barred owls have been hooting away during the day.)

Trail maps ave available online from ExploreRI.org.

#RI mom and environmental educator asks Toys R Us to pull TV ad

As conservationists and educators encourage American children to go outdoors, a new commercial by retailer Toys R Us is portraying a trip outdoors as boring. Shopping is much more fun, the commercial says.

In the ad, a group of kids are put on a bus for a fictional “Meet the Trees Foundation” field trip. The bus ride seems purposely boring, until the leader announces that they are actually going on a shopping spree in a Toys R Us store.

AboutUsBioPhoto2Jeanine Silversmith (pictured with her family at right), founder of RI Families In Nature, has launched an online petition asking Toys R Us to pull the ad. “Just like healthy food and a good night’s sleep, spending time in nature is essential to our health and well being,” Jeanine says. “There is a growing body of research showing the connection between interaction with the natural world and the physical, mental, academic, and emotional health of both children and adults. Research studies show that children who regularly play and learn outside are healthier, happier, and smarter than those who do not.” She cites evidence posted on http://www.childrenandnature.org/research/.”

To Toys R Us, Jeanine says, “Stop attacking environmental education. Take down your TV commercial that portrays spending time outdoors as a boring activity that children do not enjoy.”

Halloween woodland critters teach kids without frightening them

Lids meet critters on Audubon's Halloween walks.

Kids meet friendly woodland critters on Audubon’s Halloween walks.

Join the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Caratunk Wildlife Refuge in Seekonk, MA, for a fright-free celebration of Halloween – Mother Nature style.

Bundle up and rustle through the leaves on a guided lantern-lit hike in the cool night forest.  Families encounter costumed woodland creatures that explore the myths, legends, and creatures associated with Halloween. Fun-filled and fright-free, these walks are a great alternative to the usual haunted happenings. Audubon’s woodland characters are friendly and fun, perfect for young children and the whole family.

Walks will begin at 5:30 p.m., with groups of 15 going off every 10 minutes. Registration is required to reserve a time. Refreshments, children’s activities, and a special treat await your return. Spaces are limited, so make your reservation today. REGISTER HERE or call 401-949-5454.

In the event of rain, the fun will be moved into the Caratunk barn, completely transformed for fall with pumpkins, hay and lanterns.

NY parents sue summer camp for $41.75 million after tick bite

The parents of a New York girl are suing a Connecticut summer camp for $41.75 million after, they allege, their daughter was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease.

ticks

The federal lawsuit names YMCA Camp Mohawk in Litchfield, CT. It was filed filed by attorney Antonio Ponvert III on behalf of Ariana Sierzputowski and her parents, Abby Horowitz and Joseph Sierzputowski.

For the whole story as it appeared in The Courant, click here.

Photo courtesy lymediseaseassociation.org