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I have been Gaia-d only a few times in my life.

Gaia is a hypothesis originally espoused by Dr. James Lovelock. It states, generally, that all organic and inorganic materials on Earth are interconnected and inter reliant on one another to maximize life itself. To be Gaia-d means to have an experience in nature where this concept is profoundly understood, even internalized. You could call it a spiritual awakening, but that perhaps over does it. To me, it’s a quiet understanding, nothing more.

When I was younger, one of my favorite hobbies was hunting woodduck in south Georgia. The sport involves seeking out isolated wetlands and hunkering down in crowded woods. Woodduck fly into these water holes late in the afternoon and "leave out" early in the morning. As they come in, crashing through trees and the light down on the water, they squeal for their companions to join them. The trick is to let a few dozen in, they then call out to the rest. In this particular waterhole hundreds of Woodduck would fly in, like clockwork, just before evening.

There was always a calm before the Woodduck would fly. Typically I would be alone with my Labrador retriever. When you’re alone in the woods, hunting, your senses get very sharp. You can hear bugs crawling on the ground insects in the trees and every rustle of leaves. This is typically my favorite time to be in the woods, a half an hour before the sun goes below or rises up from the horizon. There seems to be a scramble for everything to get ready for the change over.

This particular evening my dog Wally and I hunkered down in one of my favorite spots to hunt woodduck. Once everything is set up, there’s nothing left to do but wait, these are when one’s senses come alive. The pink smudge was slowly fading on the horizon. I remember watching my dog’s nose twitch with the thousands of scents he must have been smelling. Easy boy. Quiet. Tonight was slowly moving in. As usual and as we got quiet, leaves began to rustle, insects began to squirm. Wally’s ears would perk up, he would stop painting, and look sharply from the left and right. Shhhh. Not only could I hear faraway deer, turkey, opossum, raccoon, but also centipede, millipedes, rotifers, praying mantis. Doves scrambling to find a roost at the last moment. I could hear everything. The woods itself was alive! I was alive!! I was a Hunter. We were hunters. Wally understood that. So was everything else in the woods at that moment.

The interconnectedness of that moment was profound. For a brief time I felt I completely understood the make up of the soils, the roll of the ants, worms, spiders and mosses. The air itself was interwoven with the steam rising up from the detritus. Everything was hunting for something. The inter action of the thousands of organisms just within my small area was complex but related and working in concert with one another and with me. It was an epiphany! I viscerally understood the word “ecology” at that moment. It wasn’t difficult to understand the the balance of these woods. How foolish to think that “we” humans could better balance the forest with predator controls or biocides. The forest regulates itself, and maximizes efficiencies through the interaction of, literally, hundreds of thousands of independently sentient organisms. The symphony is beautiful and it exists all around us, if we take the time to hear it. And we too play an instrument in this orchestra.

What a moment for me. I will always remember it. And I will always be thankful for being given such clear insight for just a moment in time.

Eventually I went back to my self indulgence, closing out the symphony. Turning off the noise. Maybe to be too in tune with the world around you would leave one waking away, never to return. Maybe I’ll be there again one day. I hope so.

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