This morning, Delycia and I took a breezy, inspiring two-mile walk in the Canonchet Preserve in Hopkinton, RI. We followed a freely winding forest trail past collections of massive boulders and assemblies of tall trees, and the trail was often covered with complicated networks of roots. As we walked, I kept thinking about the idea of ‘systems’, because that’s what I seemed to be seeing all around me. The forest itself, you might say, was a system, and the boulders, trees, roots, endless breezes, grasses, soils, plants, and animals – including, this morning, Delycia and me – were smaller systems within it. And of course, the forest-system we were part of as we walked is an infinitesimally small system within the boundless system of the Universe.  

I was especially fascinated by the systems of roots we passed on the trail.

We probably wouldn’t often think of the twisting patterns of roots as being beautiful, but when I think of the years and years it took these roots to slowly wind themselves beside and around each other and through soil and beside and over and under stones, I’m sort of lost in amazement. Now, in June of 2020, they lie in lovely arrangements on the forest floor, a beautifully patterned carpet for two old and lucky walkers this morning.

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As we walked, we passed many other special ‘systems’ that nature uses:

The system of a stream and its surroundings …

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And here’s a poem about a day when all systems seemed peaceful …


One day,
it seemed like all of life 
started to settle down 
into a well-rounded society. 
There was an easygoing system 
in all things,
and all was strange 
in a spectacular way.
It was as if the spirit 
of spring 
was felt even in struggles,
and even sicknesses 
started to have 
the sunshine of summer
inside them. 
On this day, 
any shallowness in life 
had a freeing spirit inside it, 
and suffering was sometimes superior
to happiness 
in the wisdom it shared. 
All the people
felt like satellites
circling through the universe,
and satisfaction was so sticky 
no one could escape from it. 

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