29 jun 09 living in a park

I'm trying so hard not to take this beautiful weather and this beautiful place we call home for granted. June continues to be mostly clear and warm(ish) and like the summers I remember before 2008. The mosquitoes are worse than normal, however, so often I'm still wearing long pants and long sleeves unless I'm biking. But that is a small price to pay for a perfect Alaska summer.

My parents were here from New York state this past week. Visitors are always a good reminder that we are very lucky to live in Alaska. We toured locally and had no trouble coming up with spectacular destinations for a few days. Some of our state parks would be national parks in other states and the municipal parks could be state parks in the Lower 48. One day we hiked to 'the beach' at Kincaid and walked the new boardwalk at Potter Marsh. Another day we drove to Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. On Sunday, the best weather of the entire summer so far, we walked out the Powerline Pass trail in search of wildlife and wild flowers. We were rewarded with moose, colorful songbirds, and fields of flowers.

Even Saturday's outing near downtown reminded me that even Anchorage has something few cities of its size or larger can boast of -- natural channel streams that support salmon. We pedaled the Ship Creek trail that opened last summer. Even though this portion of the creek passes mostly through an industrial zone and along the railroad, the river hasn't been confined to a concrete trough so typical of other urban streams. Large bright red king salmon were heading upstream as we rode by. I am glad to call this state and this city home.

8 jun 09 trying to be present

A man at Quaker Meeting last week spoke out of the silence to just what I'd been trying to do for 30 minutes (until I'd totally forgotten and had acquiesced to the "chattering ladies in the attic.") He told of standing by a flowing creek one day with his mind full of thoughts and concerns. After some time, he realized that he couldn't hear the creek over his thoughts. He decided the creek sounded better than his racing thoughts and sat down to listen to it instead. I'd been struggling to quiet my mind and be present where I sat, to listen to the ambient sounds, whether they be the cars on Tudor Road or the breathing of Friends.

I've especially been trying to be more present with the outdoors these past few weeks. Somewhere I read that having a dog should help you be more present in the moment; the dog certainly is. So I've taken that as a reminder to get back to one of the core principles of Buddhism and Quakerism. Our walks aren't exactly meditation but I'm trying to pay more attention to the birds, the emerging spring, and the motion on the other end of the leash and to keep my mind from thinking about what's next on the agenda.

On Sunday Bhikkhu and I walked out to Powerline Pass from Glen Alps trailhead. I've been hoping for a clear morning to introduce him to the high country and to see the higher elevations emerging from winter. I tried to notice and name every plant to keep my mind where my body was ... lupines, white geraniums, false hellebore, alders, hemlocks. The sun and the scenery kept me thinking about how blessed I was to be in this place at this time; I hardly thought about the afternoon ahead or the work week to come.

So if I can keep my thoughts under control for a few minutes of sitting or strolling in the sunshine, can I do it while moving a little faster? A local bicycling blogger wrote last week about tuning out the brain and how mountain biking can be a form of meditation. On Sunday afternoon Paul and I biked through Bicentennial Park and the Campbell Tract to get me to Meeting. As we descended on Brown Bear, a steep, rooty trail, I found myself thinking too much about what I should be doing. I remembered the post on 'meditative biking' and settled into the bike. I started relaxing more and was half way down the slope that I usually pause at the top of before I even realized what I was doing. I managed to keep my brain in the background for most of rest of the ride and felt like I was flowing down stream along the various winding trails through the woods and along the creeks.