has been sleeping
–and still sleeps–
lulled within the
joys of its
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I love exploring Albuquerque’s Open Space on urban trails. Our trails put me in touch with the healing powers of nature. The trails are often times small, and that can bring trail users into close proximity. That gives us opportunities to contribute to well-being in a neighborly way.
The best kind of trail in my opinion is singletrack. This is even more challenging to share than a small two-lane road, where a person may take up a whole lane, but there is still another lane to pass providing you can see it is clear of oncoming traffic for the necessary distance. When you meet another person on singletrack, you have to negotiate a safe pass, because by definition there is only room for one line of traffic. This always requires communication, patience, awareness of and respect for the well-being of others, and restraint by the speedier users.
One day on a singletrack trail in High Desert, I got stuck behind a couple walking and talking. They were going in the same direction I was. They had two dogs off the leash. I said hello and that there was a bicycle behind them. They didn’t hear me or see me. I kept a safe distance behind them and waited until there was a pause in their conversation, and used a louder voice to try saying hello again. On the third or fourth try they heard me. I stopped and waited as they gathered their dogs and attached the leashes to the collars. They found a safe place to move aside and when they were set they waved me on. We exchanged smiles and greetings with remarks on how beautiful the day was outside. It felt so good to share pleasantries. By taking time I made new friends. I felt like my patience paid off, not only in waiting for them, but the feeling I got inside from negotiating a safe, friendly pass contributed to my own well-being.
Our situational awareness as travelers takes into consideration the well-being of others. It is not just about going somewhere, it is about being with people in places and safeguarding dignity. In our travel culture I sometimes see an atmosphere of incessant rushing. And in traffic engineering, there are metrics such as travel speed and throughput that stress industrial measures that can overshadow human needs such as community, enjoyment and quality. The trails are a good place to get back in touch with ourselves and forge those vital connections once again. It takes discipline, but when we focus our attention there, good things happen.
An important mentor of mine for teaching youth cycling told me that kids don’t get “yield”. It is kind of a complex word. He found that it works better to teach kids to “give it up” when they see other people on the trail, at junctions, or crosswalks. This works well, being present to the needs of others. This also includes horses, which are common on New Mexico trails. In that sense, the rules for urban trails teach us to give it up and be present to all of life in nature. By doing this, we experience a fuller measure of nature’s healing powers right here on home trails.