‘We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day. We must make root, send out some little fibre at least, even every winter day. I am sensible that I am imbibing health when I open my mouth to the wind. Staying in the house breeds a sort of insanity always. Every house is in this sense a hospital. A night and a forenoon is as much confinement to those wards as I can stand. I am aware that I recover some sanity which I had lost almost the instant that I come [outdoors].’
Henry David Thoreau
Nearly every day – rain or shine, cold or hot – I walk my woods trail. It renews my spirit in ways that are beyond just the exercise and the fresh air. It restores me in ways that nothing else does. If the sun comes out I will do my chi gung standing in the warm bright rays of it, soaking it up with my face – since the rest of me is so well wrapped…
The hardest weather to walk in is hot weather – so I usually do my summer walks in the morning or after the sun sets. We are really fortunate in the Northwest in that – no matter how hot it gets during the day – it will cool down, sometimes 50 degrees or so overnight! So you are guaranteed a cool morning walk.
Walking the woods lets me keep track of the latest mushrooms and wildflowers, the fresh new leaves unfurling in spring and the wild azalea buds opening to release that wonderful cinnamon scent throughout the woodland. In the fall I can bask in the sunshiney warmth of the golden leaves of oaks and bracken and azalea. Wildflowers start pretty early here – with some of the first ones appearing in late January and early February. Different plants and flowers come and go all year. I would probably miss seeing some of them if I didn’t walk every day – since some of them come and go so quickly.
It’s interesting how you can forget to be bothered by the cold or the wet once you get enticed by the small wonders of a woodland. Mosses are some of my favorite green growing things and there is a lovely supply of different kinds growing throughout the woods. They are truly magical to me! As a kid we camped every summer and I would often bring home a little box of mosses and other forest goodies to grow for a few months in a goldfish bowl. A little reminder of the forest.
Every now and then on my walks I run into my “neighbors”. There is a Jack rabbit who shows him/herself a few times a year, looking like something out of a storybook with it’s incredibly long ears and long legs! A flock of turkeys often show up in our driveway in the fall to eat the crushed acorns we have driven over. I met them in the woods this summer a few times and discovered that if I didn’t actually look at them – kept my eyes on the path – that they didn’t feel the need to scatter as I walked through the middle of them. They just talked to me quietly the way my hens do. I see signs of their scratching through the leaves by the pathway now and then and realize they are just like chickens in the way they scratch the soil up looking for worms and bugs – only with much bigger feet!. One spring I even discovered a couple abandoned turkey eggs next to the path. That was one of those interesting mysteries that I may never have the answer to.
I often bump into the crippled mama deer and her young ones in early morning before they head off for a days grazing – or in the evening when they are settling in for the night. They rarely even move when they see me, which makes me feel good.
No matter how stressed or tired I am I notice that when I get to the part of the driveway that heads off into the woods trail, all my kinks and knots loosen up and my mind relaxes and lets go of the concerns of the day. It’s my time to simply BE and to utterly give myself over to observing the life around me. I notice anything new – a bit of raccoon scat by the trail, a new green shoot peeking out of the ground, or a flush of mushrooms pushing up a covering of dead leaves. I know when a tree has fallen or new ones have sprouted. There is something magical about being intimately connected to a bit of wild land and getting to experience it’s ebbs and flows and rhythms over the years. Just having the pleasure of being an observer instead of a gardener. It’s an incredible gift for which I am grateful every day.