A couple of weeks ago I was walking with my dogs on a remote snow-packed road and I encountered some other people recreating in the woods. As they passed us, a young man (they’re all young these days) yelled at me, “Get your dogs out of here!”
“I beg your pardon?” I responded, blinking in middle-aged surprise.
“Go home!” He yelled over his shoulder, as he sailed off into the trees.
I just stood there for a moment, wait for it- then I felt the increasingly familiar wave rising to the surface, like a hot flash of indignant irritation. I go to the woods for peace and quiet and that feeling that everything is going to be alright in the end, but lately I encounter more and more of these people who are rude, or indifferent, or just plain pissed. And if they’re acting like this in nature, I can only imagine what they’re like after a stressful day of coffee shop meetings and Jazzercise.
What I should’ve said (which came to mind later, of course) was, “I am home.” After all, I was almost born in a FORD pickup on that very spot when part of the road washed away in an August rain storm. Luckily, my parents made it to the hospital in time— or maybe unluckily, as my fate might have changed dramatically and I would be a famous country & western song writer… of course, I’d probably still be attending church in these woods and so I would inevitably encounter these people who were raised by wolves. Wait— even wolves teach their offspring to consider their surroundings and take a cautious approach before acting like an asshat.
I was raised by Perrys, (not too far off from wolves) yet I know how to be considerate of others when choosing my words and actions. Sometimes I like to ponder how different my life would be if I’d taken another track… the old fate vs fortune query. Is life just one big exercise in chaos theory, or is it more like a tree’s root system and while our choices take us in different directions, we all end up where we were meant to be. In this case, we inevitably end up asking the same question as everyone who came here before us, “what, exactly, is the point?” Some people choose to believe in God because religion offers a clear guideline: get up in the morning, go out into the world, and treat others as you’d like to be treated. Or, at least, it used to. Nowadays, it seems grocery-cart Christians are running through the aisles selecting the best doctrine bargains, and God forbid they stop to help the poor soul who got the grocery cart with the wonky wheel.
Personally, I’d rather go for a walk in the woods than sit in a church, and most days I come away with a genuine sense of gratitude. (That, and bigger calf muscles; pretty soon my calves will be bigger than my thighs.) But spending time in nature is what keeps the luggage in my mind securely fixed to the luggage rack. So, when I encounter a fellow parishioner acting like the golden rule means the one with the gold makes the rule, I make up a backstory for him; to try to see his inner cuteness. “As cute as a monster in a shed.” -NB Then I can put down his negative hacky sack and go about my walk. After all, the last thing I would want to do is come down to the chapel and knock the little Styrofoam-like-cracker out of his mouth.
As more and more of us inhabit this planet, and specifically my little wooded corner of it, I can’t help but worry about the changes in lifestyle that accompany too many rats in the cage. And if I have to live with this many rats then I want to believe we’re all held accountable for our actions, either here and now, or at a later karmic date. Whether your church is inside or out, whether you pray to a god or goddess, whether you were born in a hospital or a wolf den, let’s try to remember we’re all going the same way. Home.