On my hike this week, deep in the mountains on a road inaccessible by anything less maneuverable than a 4x4, I came upon a lonely open area where someone had spray-painted on the ground the symbol you can see above.

I assume that this is an occult symbol. Several times during my hikes this summer I've stumbled upon groups ranging from black-clad, target-shooting skinheads to folks looking like they might be doing something otherworldly. I suppose that I'm such a gawky old fellow that no one really cares when I stumble into their presence, so always people just ignore me. My impression is that gun-shooters, off-roaders and people holding meetings or ceremonies of some kind outnumber folks who enter the local national forest strictly for the natural environment.

History shows that during times of stress and uncertainty people become more religious, join cults, conduct séances, practice magic, etc. I understand why: When an individual wants more control of his or her life, it's easier to dance around a symbol on the ground or to pray for the intercession of angels than to confront problems at hand, and human minds are structured so that they can be convinced of almost anything.

Despite understanding, running into this symbol spray- painted deep in the forest cast me into a blue funk. For, I suspect that here was yet another example of someone going to an extreme seeking guidance or inspiration when guidance and inspiration already are freely available all around, in the forest, the sky, the Earth itself.

It was like seeing someone desperately looking for answers in a book, but instead of reading what's plainly written on the pages they open the book in random places, jot down the page numbers, and then use numerology to decipher "hidden messages" they imagine to be encrypted in the written-down numbers.

My lifelong experience with Nature suggests that the Creator of the Universe does not play around with hidden messages that way. The Creator writes Her will very plainly in the thing She has created, which is Nature. As music reflects the composer's mindset, Nature reveals the Creator's will.

If guidance in life is being sought, here are some of the most obvious of Nature's suggestions:

# Revere and protect diversity
# Use resources frugally, and recycle
# Keep evolving, struggling toward every higher states
# Know that some things can't be explained, and qualify as miracles; there's mystery in the Universe

This guidance is free and available to everyone. There's no need to dance around symbols spray-painted on the ground to have it revealed to you.