There was a time in my life when camping out meant a tent, a shovel and a roll of toilet paper; when a walk in the woods meant heading cross-country with a compass, maybe a map, and my own new trail unfolding behind me.
Now, I’m happy to find an inexpensive Motel 6 when I’m traveling, and
very willing to make do with the well-kept trails in the state park.
When I first began noticing these shifts in requirements, I was a bit dismayed. Could this mean I was getting soft? Or worse, getting old? Well, yes.
Maybe not old. Never that. But I have gratzy knees (my favorite word, coined by my husband) that mean no twisting, no long, hard walks. I have a back that my patient chiropractor is slowly trying to restore to normal, a long process I’m sure. And I have the wisdom to know that at this stage in my life, I don’t have to set any records, break any new ground, or challenge myself physically.
And so, when it comes time for a ramble with Lady, we often head to the state park. It’s just minutes from our house and riddled with trails of all kinds. Some collect cool breezes while skirting the bay, some climb up to the old ski hill for a spectacular view, some plunge into the dense canopy of tall evergreen and deciduous trees. I can take my time; I can stop to photograph wildflowers, or gather acorns for the squirrels back home. I can take a break and listen to bird- and wind-song; and aside from a general knowledge of the lay of the land, I don’t need a map or a compass.
Best of all, I can restore myself. Somewhere
I read that human beings NEED nature to get back in touch with themselves, to connect with that creation of which they’re a part. Too much concrete and traffic, too much technology and artificial noise, are akin to a slow poisoning of the spirit.
I know people who can’t stand quiet, who can’t be alone with their own thoughts without some sort of background distraction–radio, TV, CDs, whatever. Our house, in contrast, is often very quiet as we putter around with our projects. It’s peaceful.
But there’s a different kind of quiet in the woods.
The wind soughs in the trees, moving like an unseen specter from one stand of trees to another as it passes by. Birds flit, sing, challenge each other or drill for insects. Geese in the bay squabble among themselves. Insects zip blindly by.
Those sounds don’t gentle my thoughts, they erase them. My mind drifts, my breathing slows, and I am content just to be. Tension slips away, and nothing seems as important or as consuming as it might have before.
Sometimes I simply enjoy putting one foot in front of the other along the path,
watching the ground, or scanning the tree tops. Sometimes I let myself be amused at Lady’s obvious enjoyment of our nature trek, where every sniff has a new possibility, where trails sensed only by her lure her doggy imagination. I like giving her the gift of walk in the woods. Sometimes George and I converse quietly about each other’s observations. We take turns holding the leash so the other can photograph.
No compass, no map, no breaking trail. I enjoyed all that once upon a time. My doses of nature are a bit tamer these days and that’s perfectly all right.