Azer Koçulu
June 16th, 2020

A Walk

Camping in Klempowsee Lake

Meanwhile our worlds are rapidly changing by challenging us every single day with new uncertainties, a tortoise is walking a dirt path surrounded by giant trees patiently. Gifted long and calm life, tortoises experience a world we miss in our fast-forward perceptions.

Miracles are nothing other than fetching water and carrying firewood. — Layman Pangyun

In the Rinzai school of Zen, the students are given an unsolvable riddle and asked to work on it no matter how hard it is. The purpose of the exercise is to help the student find pure experience of the moment by not being able to flee from the challenging situation. Through the practice, students slowly become aware of what they really are, down below the ego image.

The desire to change myself from the inside out, being aware of how difficult and slow it can be, I wanted to celebrate my 33th birthday taking a walk towards Northern Germany. A good friend mentioned about the Berlin - Bad Wilsnack route, the historical pilgrimage route through beautiful forests and villages.

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. — Wikipedia

The route is about 130km long and usually takes 7 days to complete it. I didn't reach the end though. It was less about the destination, more about disconnecting from the external world, not thinking about usual things keeping me busy, slowing down the time, breaking my habit loop, getting out of my comfort zone and cleaning up the dust in my head by walking.

There are low-cost (7€ per bed) guesthouses operated by the churches on the way. I wanted to be self-sufficient (and I'm not a Christian), so carried my own tent, sleeping bag, food, water... I could choose where I'd like to sleep, and most importantly, the challenge of carrying more weight and being able to manage the water for both drinking and cooking food kept all my awareness on my own survival. Self-sufficiency adds more weight to carry, and helps the mind stay internally focused.

My biggest resource was time and it didn't weight in my backpack. In fact, the more time I have, the less weight I feel, unlike water and food. The time passed slowly, nevertheless needed to be coped with; water and food has to be sufficient for the time and distance we're going to be walking. Carrying a tent makes it possible to sleep anywhere, not everywhere is suitable for camping though. There are private properties, agricultural fields, and protected areas. It's a good idea to find a good camping spot before the sun goes down.

We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are. ― The Talmud

After the sunset and a simple dinner, the hours long silence in the middle of a forest can stir existential questions up, such as "who am I?". Free from the relationships and the transactions in the daily life, I find it uneasy to think about my being and my worth from the perspective of the trees that stand out alone, from the perspective of a deer feeling deeply disturbed about the presence of a human being, or from the perspective of the fish feeling scared from the reflection of a human being.

Nature can have some hints or some messages that can help us answer our own questions. Just like every existence, I believe that the nature has its own way to speak. The first time I clearly heard that was when I and Nova hiked to the summit of Mount Toubkal. The storm would "hit" our body and make us fall to the ground. We'd manage to get up then get hit by by small stones flying in the air in random directions.

Until that day, I always thought that humankind survived by finding answers to the challenges nature had. That day in the Toubkal Summit, feeling really close to death, I came to the realization that nature would deliver its messages using its own language. It'd ask a squirrel to find a home between rocks, and human beings to build walls and bridges. Nature had dictated the conditions of survival for all other existences. I got my share of that in Mount Toubkal, surviving the most severe storm I had to deal for three days.

Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them. ― David Hume

Peace in nature often refers to peace from relationships and transactions, all the walls and bridges we've built in our lives. Forests are beautiful, so are deserts. One has a functional role in the ecosystem and helps us survive, one makes us enjoy the view. A desert resets itself by wind every night, while a tree can be cut or planted. God -if there is one- wanted all of us pass through the earth by being a part of one ecosystem but as separate communities surviving together, and also witness how good of an artist he is when we need to take a break from the exhausting amount of relationships and transactions.

In the silent and reckless presence of a beautiful forest, one could see that, with all the complications, imperfections and impossibilities, the quality and diversity of the relationships have significant say on who we are. Ironical enough, the same nature who can take our lives in case of a failure to find or mismanage the basic resources we need, also heals our both physical and psychological wounds by welcoming us back when needed. Still processing the thoughts, this walk helped me attach the forms of myself, society and the nature more closer to each-other in my consciousness. As the song says, what we forgot could be better than what we know today.