Henry David Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately but I ended up there by accident. I have a cold and woke up to more bad news, to violence, death and division and I felt broken. I couldn't focus and felt unmoored, so, I drove to the lake to clear my head. I needed waves on the water and the white sails of boats and big sky and the colors of changing leaves. So, I got in the car and drove but they were resurfacing the road near the lake and I couldn't turn and traffic was stopped and I immediately thought, "There is a lesson in this..." but clenched my jaw in annoyance because I wasn't in the mood for lessons. I couldn't go to the lake, so, I drove to a Starbucks instead and got a latte and tried to figure out what to do next.
The Starbucks was near Minnehaha Parkway which is named for Minnehaha Creek, a tributary to the Mississippi River. I didn't know that last part yesterday; I just knew it was water. I parked my car and walked down the parkway and knew the creek was somewhere to my left but there was no path to it, so, I walked the city street with my coffee and briefly considered going home. But then I saw a small, muddy clearing in the woods and I took it. It was a worn foot path, strewn with dead leaves and it led me deeper into the woods, past fallen trees covered in moss, through cobwebs, and down to the creek. I stood there and took in the wild of the woods right in the middle of the city and expected catharsis or some sort of revelation but felt nothing but disappointment. Something bit me on the arm and there was a rotting log covered in graffiti and I took a picture of it because I found no beauty there to capture.
I kept walking because I felt like I had to, like I had to make this whole endeavor worthwhile. I walked the path and took in the overwhelming green of the trees without interest and came to a bridge and as I stood on the bridge staring at the waters of the creek flowing through those verdant banks, I took a deep breath and thought, "This is dumb."
Obviously, I am no Thoreau.
At that point, I accepted defeat. The whole outing had been a bust, so, I crossed the bridge, found a walking path and headed back towards the main road and that's when I found what I needed - a rocky shore on the creek where I could sit and hear the water and watch fallen leaves tumble through it as they passed. I found a few moments of peace. I felt my mind settle and then I continued walking, a little lighter.
I came to a point opposite of where I began and could see the rotting log with the graffiti but it looked completely different. It reminded me how different things can look from different perspectives. On one side of the creek, I saw a rotting log covered in graffiti. From the other side, I saw a downed tree shrouded in lush woods.
I've been struggling with the divisiveness in the world. Innocent black people are being shot in the streets by the very people who are supposed to serve and protect. It's so clear to me and yet so many people don't see it that way. There are two presidential candidates - one qualified and one not, one with a lifetime of public service and good intentions and one who is willfully ignorant with a history of putting his interests above all others and yet he may win. These differences in perception are unfathomable to me. They make me feel powerless and, sometimes, hopeless.
But seeing that rotting log from two perspectives yesterday reminded me of something else. There are different perspectives but there are also facts. That log is covered in graffiti regardless of the spot from which it is viewed. Though many in this country - including the media - can't seem to focus on the facts, we need to be doing just that. We need to educate ourselves. We need to share what we know and learn. We need to speak up and move forward. Now more than ever, we need to hold on tightly to the facts.