The Guilford Woods– Yet Again!

2/22/19

A gathering place for freshman bonfires (for where else would they go?), an earthy rival to a treadmill, a wooded canvas of self-reflection, a home of debated ghosts and ghouls and whatnot galore, (the subject of countless student projects). The sentiment rings tired, but true: the woods stand as a resolute and prided feature of our community, perhaps the last thing left untouched by the myriad critiques of Guilford College.

I aspire for my study of the Guilford wilderness to include, if not focus on, the careful observation of intimate places within the broader area, be them places of my own, those of others, or those who are surely intimate to some but whose designation I have no way of knowing.

Firstly, a felled tree bridging the the widest bit of a pitiful stream that crawls parallel to the main path. (Spare me, those few readers more cartographically inclined; this program has a glorious edit button, and I shall return.)

I know not what species my beloved is, but I’ll eventually find this out and edit it back in– for that would surely prove an enticing detail. (Again spare me, tree enthusiasts.)

My fondness for this wooden corpse arises from a two-week period of 2017 (class years are such a bore!), in which I devoted myself to, for some ungodly reason, the idea that I was to be a runner. Each day for these curséd two weeks, I’d huff and puff down and around the the common trail, find myself by the log, The Log, and, swayed by the respiratory benefits, decide I was in dire need of meditation.

I perched, scooted out a bit so I was directly above the centerpoint of the creek, and closed my eyes for a time. A practice of natural connection, rooting, re-rooting, myself to my earth, I’d even go so far as to utterly disconnect from the modern world; I placed my phone on the log, a few feet to my left (speak nothing of the dry earth beneath it).

As I sat, meditated, breathed in the natural purity of the earth–a few hundred yards away lies a slope that students fondly refer to as “Shit Hill,” which is rumored to be particularly fragrant on days that the cafeteria remembers its deep-fryer– other woods-goers would pass, joggers with true destiny, and stare at the large, sweaty man sitting cross-legged on a gnarled log over a shit-frothing stream, in clear view of, and a rough meter away from, the popular trail.

Much of this is speculation, of course, for true meditation, true breaks to catch your breath, rely on utter dissociation: my eyes were closed and the water too loud to hear the footsteps.

During my first few trips, it was just this– the water was too loud, I was focused on regaining my ability to breathe. However after several days, or perhaps after a single, particularly loathsome day, I found myself actually listening, not to footsteps of judging passerbys, but to the water itself. Not to my body’s feeble desire for oxygen, but to my breath, my breathing.

Once this habit took hold, I’d find myself startled by the sound of footsteps, echoing in the ethereal. The randomness, the peculiarity, of the sound of fellow humans, let alone collegiate peers, affected me in that I had no concept of the event’s frequency; that I noticed these footsteps, just now, seemed like utter coincidence, who knew how many people had passed.

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