A couple of miles into my morning wander and I'd been jolted from solitude several times to practice what used to be considered common courtesy - “Hello.” Hikers are a generally a friendly lot, so "hello" can morph into an actual conversation- what's blooming, the sorry state of public lands under current political leaders, or an extra moment to scratch a furry companion behind the ear. I've chatted with folks whose ancestors used to live on the lands I was walking, hunters out scouting game trails, and kids whose curiosity was infectious. I've never left these encounters without a genuine good feeling.
So when did it become okay to pass by another human without a greeting, essentially pretending they're not there? I'm not talking about bustling streets where greeting every passerby is impossible. I've noticed people starting to take on big city behavior out in the woods. I don't like it and here is my rule- you don't get to pass by me on the trail without a greeting. Don't even get me going on people wearing earbuds or talking on their phone. You're still going to get my attention, like it or not. (And by the way, you're missing an incredible symphony of soul-soothing wild sounds and interactions.)
Paying attention to others in small ways, like saying "hello," matters. It's an affirmation. It signals respect. It takes time, and sometimes, courage. Paying attention requires a willingness to be open and to learn something new. It is non-judgmental. Paying attention to ourselves, our surroundings, and each other, is a foundation of healthy being, and indeed, a healthy society.
So please don't think walking by your fellow humans without a greeting is normal. For most of us, in many circumstances, it's not. It's a symptom of “dis-ease," disconnection, and distraction.
Civility, courtesy, grace, even “good-breeding,” call it what you will. Please pay attention to others along your path. Kindly acknowledge them. A simple “hello”
For more of the paintings I've been working on, click here.
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. She walks with intention in wild places at least 1,200 miles yearly, much of it on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. She makes art documenting her experience along the way and in her studio.