Sidewalk Zendo – Popup Forest

[Prologue:  April seems like a good time to start a new habit.  It’s my birth month, and in this part of the world it is definitely Springtime, which seems to me a more natural start to the yearly cycle of seasons than January.  One of the intentions I’ve set for the 12 months is to cultivate mindfulness. Specifically, returning to a regular meditation practice.  I was introduced to Zen meditation 20 years ago and have practiced, on and off, ever since.  I decided I could fit in a 10 minute zazen (sitting meditation) session most days.  I’ve been pretty good at sticking to that schedule for the past 3 weeks.  Still, 10 minutes isn’t much and I thought I could find other opportunities if I looked.

I live in an apartment with my wire-fox terrier, Dash, who enjoys stretching his legs each day.  Actually, so do I.  There’s a paved rails-to-trails path nearby and we walk approximately 1 mile each morning and evening. While the trail winds past a pleasant mix of remnant landscaping and native southwestern Virginia plants, after a couple of month of twice-daily walks through the same territory I began thinking about alternate locations, to add some variety.  

About this time I noticed that Dash never seems to get bored on these walks. He’s always alert to new sights and sounds and scents.  Beginner’s mind, every time, so I began to think of him as Inu Roshi (Teacher Dog), my Zen master, and of these walks as my sidewalk zendo, a chance to practice mindfulness twice daily.  Knowing that accountability can help to keep one on the right habit track I decided to share some of the thoughts and images from this kinhin (walking meditation) practice on my blog.]

We’ve been having a run of wet weather here in Blacksburg. Today is Tuesday and it’s been raining nearly non-stop since Saturday. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light, but almost always steady.

Rain or shine, though, Dash insists on our daily walk. Honestly, I don’t really mind being out in the rain unless its very cold and/or windy, or if the water is coming down in sheets. In any of those cases I usually insist that we wait for a break in the precip, if possible. Dash is a patient fellow. Mostly.

This morning we walked through a cloud-like mist and, as we passed a low knoll, I was charmed to discover a miniature popup fungi forest.  Swaths of buffy-colored mushrooms where just twelve hours earlier there was only wood-chip mulch.

One of the things I love about using the same path every day is that I do notice new features, even when I’m not being especially observant and mindful. And, interestingly enough, noticing something new is usually enough to bring me back to the present. To Now. Here. This.
I snapped a couple of photos and, when we were back inside, warm and dry, I did a little research. I’m not a mycologist (a biologist who specializes in fungus) by any stretch of the imagination (I can recognize a morels, Amanita muscaria, and not much else) but I’m relatively confident these are gypsy mushrooms (Cortinarius caperatus), a common and edible species.

I won’t be eating them but I suspect the resident gray squirrels may have just changed their meal plans for the next few days.

What surprised and delighted you during your time outdoors today?

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